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September 26, 2005

WBEC Morning Jock Dies in Childbirth

*It was a sad start to the week last Monday in western MASSACHUSETTS, as WBEC-FM (105.5 Pittsfield) morning host Big Mike Patrick had to tell his listeners that his co-host, Sharon Steele, had died during childbirth .

Steele, whose real name was Sharon Brophy-Forst, died September 15 while giving birth to daughter Olivia. Sadly, Olivia didn't survive, either, and our sympathies go out to Sharon's husband Kyle.

Steele's career began in her native Vermont, at WZRT (97.1 Rutland), and took her to upstate New York, Delaware and WHMP-FM (99.3 Northampton) before she settled in at "Live 105" a few years back. She was just 38.

Across the state in Boston, some happier news to report: WBUR-FM (90.9 Boston) is now broadcasting with higher power (12 kW, up from 7.2 kW) from a new Shively antenna mounted in the same spot as its old one, right at the top of the "FM-128" tower on Chestnut Street in Newton Upper Falls. The station pulled off the antenna replacement in just one day, using its backup site atop the BU Law School building in the meantime; we're hearing that the reports of improved reception are already coming in.

(Thanks to our tower-photography colleague Garrett Wollman for making a special trip to Newton to grab a picture, too!)

And there's still no sign of Jay Severin on WTKK (96.9 Boston), two weeks after the start of a flap about his claim of having won a nonexistent Pulitzer Prize for online journalism. The station's been carrying Sean Hannity's show live in the 3-6 PM timeslot instead.

*New call letters in VERMONT: the 100.3 construction permit in Barton is now WJPK - what will it be when it signs on?

WNCS (104.7 Montpelier) and its sister "Point" stations have a new PD, as Zeb Norris arrives in Vermont from a AAA career that includes stops in Utah and at the late WXLE (104.5 Mechanicville) in the Albany market. He replaces Mark Abuzzahab, who's now at KBCO in Boulder, Colorado.

*In NEW HAMPSHIRE, we've been remiss in failing to mention Bob Vinikoor's application for more power at night at his WNTK (1010 Newport). He wants to add a second tower for 2000 watts at night (up from the current 37 watts) - and of course it would all be aimed northwest, away from WINS in New York.

We saw Bob at the NAB Radio Show in Philadelphia last week (more on that in a moment), and with him was Dennis Jackson, who confirmed reports we'd heard of an impending format shift at his WMEX (106.5 Farmington). Over the next few weeks, the oldies there will segue to 80s and 90s pop as "X-106."

*As we drove down to Philadelphia, we were grateful to CONNECTICUT's WTIC (1080 Hartford) for its big night signal that allowed us to hear some of the critical Red Sox action as the season winds to what looks like a dramatic close. (And stay tuned to Tower Site of the Week later this week as we take you inside WTIC's magnificent transmitter site for one of the neatest features we've ever had the opportunity to offer!)

There's a new PD at WEZN (99.9 Bridgeport), as Samantha Stevens adds those duties to her midday shift at "Star."

And on the TV dial, UPN affiliate WCTX (Channel 59) in New Haven has rebranded as "UPN9," matching their cable position across most of the state.

*It was a heck of a night Saturday in upstate NEW YORK, as about 150 veterans of the Binghamton radio and TV scene gathered at an Endicott restaurant for the largest edition yet of the "Binghamton Broadcasters Reunion."

NERW was delighted to be able to attend the event, which included a display of some neat old Binghamton broadcast memorabilia, lots of great stories, and even some awards. WMRV's Louie G was named "Broadcaster of the Year" for his outstanding charity work. WLTB's John and Chris took home a special achievement award. The late Ray Diorio was honored with the Binghamton Broadcaster Memorial Award. And veteran WNBF/WNBF-TV/WBNG newsman Bernie Fionte won a standing ovation when he was named this year's "Living Legend."

The event drew broadcasters from all over, including a few from Florida (WNBF veteran John Leslie and former WICZ anchor Mark Williams, who's now at WNDB in Daytona Beach), several from New York City and Boston (including former WAAL/WZLX jock Keith Nelson) and - we're proud to add - several other Rochesterians, too, including WHAM morning news anchor Bill Lowe and WYSL's Bob Savage and Judith Day. (Bob was a screamin' jock back in the day at WENE!)

We were most impressed by all the hard work that Ray Ross and his steering committee put in to the event, and we suspect there will be lots of pictures getting posted this week on Jon Scaptura's great site.

There will be another impressive gathering this Thursday on Long Island, when WLNG (92.1 Sag Harbor)'s legendary Paul Sidney is honored with a Long Island Lifetime Achievement Award by several of the island's chambers of commerce. The event starts at 5:30 at the Canoe Place Inn in Hampton Bays, and while NERW won't be there, we send along our best wishes for one of radio's most enduring characters (and our hope that he's getting past the health problems that have had him sidelined for too long!)

More awards? There were several for Empire State broadcasters at the NAB Radio Show's Marconi Radio Awards Thursday night, including "Medium Market Personality of the Year" for Don Weeks of WGY (810 Schenectady) and "Urban Station of the Year" for WBLS (107.5 New York). Congratulations!

More gatherings? You bet - the annual "Broadcast & Technology Expo," sponsored by the Society of Broadcast Engineers' Chapter 22, will take place Wednesday (Sept. 28) at the Turning Stone Casino & Resort between Syracuse and Utica. Now in its 33rd year, the Expo has become one of the premiere regional engineering conferences, and we're delighted to be able to attend again this year (with calendars to sign, no less!)

And there's some actual news to report out of the state, too: in Troy, WMHT (89.1 Schenectady) just moved into its brand-new studios in the Rensselaer Technology Park, with the first broadcast taking place there on Thursday. It'll be joined soon by WMHT-TV (Channel 17) and the RISE reading service, which all move out of aging and cramped facilities in Rotterdam. The stations' new contact info: 4 Global View, Troy NY 12180, telephone 518-880-3400.

In the Bronx, WFUV (90.7 New York) raised its new tower over the weekend. The 160-foot guyed mast sits atop a building on Gun Hill Road owned by Montefiore Medical Center, and once it's fitted out with an antenna and WFUV signs on there, the station will be able to take down the unfinished tower on the Fordham University campus that caused so much controversy when it began rising above the treeline at the nearby Botanical Garden. (Yes, we'll have pictures...soon!)

Back up the Hudson, WKXP (94.3 Kingston) reimages from "Kix" to "The Wolf," remaining country.

In Ithaca, W242AB (96.3) is now on the air, translating rocker WLLW (99.3 Seneca Falls) into the city.

And as we drove home early Sunday morning, we noted that WNYL-LP (104.9 Lima) remains on the air with its automated contemporary Christian format, even though its coverage has been all but completely obliterated by the move of WMJQ in Brockport from 105.5 to 104.9. The station's clear coverage area doesn't even reach the boundaries of the village of Lima; indeed, we began hearing interference from WMJQ just a couple of blocks from WNYL's transmitter at Elim Bible College.

*In NEW JERSEY, WDHA (105.5 Dover) PD Terrie Carr has parted ways with the station; we hear Carr (who also did middays there) is headed to satellite radio.

On the shore, WDDM (89.3 Hazlet) changes hands, as Domestic Church Media Foundation Inc. pays WVRM, Inc. $500,000 for the station. (The call change to WFJS that we reported a few weeks ago has apparently not yet become official.)

*The big news in PENNSYLVANIA was, of course, the big gathering of broadcasters at the NAB Radio Show in Philadelphia. From what we heard on the show floor, the buzz about returning to the site for the second time in as many years was pretty good; the Pennsylvania Convention Center (site of the 2003 Radio Show) is certainly a convenient spot, with lots of good food, entertainment and transportation options. And as we'd expected, HD Radio was the big topic on many attendees' minds, though with plenty of concern about what remains a much slower than expected rollout of receivers for the service. (Only Day Sequerra, which makes extremely sophisticated and pricey reference receivers, had tuners on the floor ready for shipping; Radiosophy was on hand to demonstrate its slick home tuner, but shipping of the unit remains delayed, likely past the holiday season that should have been a major rollout for HD Radio gear if the technology is going to catch on before it's completely eclipsed by satellite and other digital technologies.)

On the TV dial, the buzz in Philly was the impending shutdown of one of the city's newsrooms. Tribune announced that it will close the news operation at WPHL (Channel 17) on December 10, though news will continue via a 10 PM broadcast produced by NBC's WCAU (Channel 10).

A correction from last week's NERW: the tower in Wyndmoor where WTHK (97.5 Burlington) wants to move is just over the Montgomery County line, not in the city of Philadelphia - and despite a confusing FCC record that claims the tower was built in 1999, a visit to the site confirmed that the tower in question is in fact the 1940s-vintage self-supporter that was once home to the old WPTZ-TV (now KYW-TV 3), later to WPHL and today to WJJZ (106.1 Philadelphia).

WRDW-FM (96.5 Philadelphia) and morning jock "Rocco the Janitor" parted ways last week, with "Big Mama" in from Minneapolis (KTTB 96.3 Glencoe) to replace him in mornings. Meanwhile, in an echo of the stunt that launched what's now "Wired 96.5," in which "Rocco" claimed to have taken over the station for days on end, WWRR (104.9 Scranton) spent the weekend stunting with a wide variety of music being played by "Chet the Engineer," who's at least a real person (and a real engineer - market veteran Chet Brzostek.)

We'd have heard "Radio Chet," too, if it had occurred to us to flip the radio on as we drove through Scranton in the wee hours of Saturday morning - but then, we've been conditioned not to expect much of interest on the air in Scranton at that hour.

(One more Scranton note before we move on - we were most impressed to note, in the season premiere of NBC's The Office, a "Froggy 101" bumper sticker on a desk in the background of the set. Nice local color for a show that's set in Scranton!)

*In CANADA, the CBC lockout continues to drag on, and with the network's franchise "Hockey Night in Canada" about to make its debut for the season (October 8), there's renewed pressure from Ottawa to get both sides to sit down and reach some kind of settlement.

Meanwhile, Radio-Canada applies to add two transmitters on Prince Edward Island for its premiere chaine service - 97.5 (6 kW DA) in St. Edward and 106.9 (173 watts) in Urbainville, both relaying CBAF-FM-15 (88.1 Charlottetown).

And there are a bunch of Radio People on the Move north of the border: Milkman UnLimited reports Derm Carnduff moves from the "KICX" country stations in Midland and Kitchener to the PD chair at Hamilton's Y108 (CJXY 107.9 Burlington); Kevin Bernard is the new PD at CFPL (980 London); D'Arcy Magee moves from PD at CFLY/CKLC Kingston to music director at Kiss (CISS 105.3) in Ottawa; and Bob Perreault leaves a long career at CFRA (580 Ottawa) to become communications director for the Catholic School Board of Eastern Ontario.

*Tower Site Calendar 2006 is just back from the printer, and we've got to say, we're especially proud of the way this one turned out.

Once again, we bring you more than a dozen images from the collection that have never seen print before, including that nifty nighttime view of New York's WMCA that graces the cover. You also get to see WSB, KTAR, Mount Wilson, CBV and many, many more, plus all those fun dates in radio and TV history, civil and religious holidays, a handy full-page 2007 calendar, and the always-popular hole for hanging.

And we do it all with no increase in price, for the fourth year running!

The calendars are shipping now, so there's no need to wait until the holidays to enjoy all that tall steel and all that broadcast history. Order now and beat the rush!

You can get one free with your 2006 subscription to NERW at the $60 level, or order the calendar (plus other goodies) at our brand new Store! We think you'll like this one - and as always, we thank you 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.