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December 12, 2005

FCC Okays Sale of Lane Stations

*Three northeast PENNSYLVANIA radio stations will be able to stay on the air under new ownership, now that the FCC has agreed to allow their owner, who was convicted of child-molestation charges, to sell the stations rather than to surrender their licenses.

Regular NERW readers already know the background here: Doug Lane, longtime owner of WWDL (104.9 Scranton, now WWRR), WICK (1400 Scranton) and WYCK (1340 Plains), was arrested in March 2004. Prosecutors say Lane's history of molesting teenage boys extended back several decades, with the statute of limitations having expired on some of the earliest incidents.

In the past, the FCC has handled similar charges against licensees (most notably Michael Rice, who owned stations in Missouri and Indiana) by revoking the stations' licenses - and indeed, to this day, Rice's former frequencies in Columbia, Missouri and Terre Haute, Indiana remain dark.

In this case, though, prosecutors in Lackawanna County had a different idea. They asked the FCC to allow Lane to sell the stations to Bold Gold Media, which owns four nearby stations (WDNH/WPSN in Honesdale, WYCY in Hawley and WDNB in Jeffersonville, N.Y.) and which has been operating the Scranton stations under an LMA for several months. Out of the $1.9 million sale price for the stations, $300,000 would be set aside for reimbursement to victims and for contributions to victim-assistance agencies. The remainder would be put into a court-supervised account, with the money (plus interest) going to Lane if he wins the appeal of his conviction and to the county if the conviction stands on appeal.

The FCC agreed to the plan last week, and now the transfer of the licenses to Bold Gold will move forward.

*In Philadelphia, another legal settlement means the end of the WOGL (98.1 Philadelphia) career of legendary jock Hy Lit. Lit had sued WOGL owner Infinity for age discrimination, and as part of a settlement with the company, he agreed to make yesterday (Dec. 11) his final Sunday show on WOGL. Lit's far from finished, though - he's now focusing on his 24-hour oldies webcast at

In Carlisle, WHYL (960) has made it official - it'll return to adult standards when the Christmas music ends in early January. The format change includes the return of Ben Barber to morning drive; he'd been doing mornings until WHYL flipped to talk a year ago, and had been doing sales for the station since then.

Down the road in Lancaster, WLAN-FM (96.9) promotion director Aaron Price is adding the night air shift to his duties, picking up the slack from B-Rock's departure. Former WLAN morning co-host Holly Love is also returning, to handle the 9-noon slot.

In Harrisburg, add WMHX (106.7 Hershey) to the all-Christmas bandwagon.

There's a new signal on the air in McConnellsburg: WWCF (88.7) signed on a couple of weeks ago as "Eagle 88.7," with what sounds like a community-focused variety format. (It's owned by Morris Broadcasting & Communications.)

And we leave the Keystone State with the obituary of one of Harrisburg's best-known voices: Ron Drake spent 35 years at WHP (580) before his retirement in 1982, most of that time in morning drive. Drake died Sunday, Dec. 4 in Fort Myers, Florida. He was 85.

*Some changes in northwest NEW JERSEY: Jay Wulff takes over as morning host at WNNJ-FM (103.7), replacing Zach Martin (who moved down to WAWZ in Zarephath as creative services director a few months back). Wulff comes to WNNJ from Clear Channel sister station WPKF in Poughkeepsie, where he was music director. He continues to voicetrack middays on WPKF.

*There's probably nothing we can add to the media hype surrounding the impending departure of Howard Stern from terrestrial radio, so we won't even try.

But there is some news surrounding his NEW YORK flagship station: the calls will apparently change from WXRK to WFNY-FM when it becomes "92.3 Free FM" in January (the WFNY calls are also in use on AM and for an LPTV up in Gloversville, and we're sure owner Michael Sleezer got a nice deal from Infinity to share them for New York City use.) The new WFNY-FM will have a new manager, as Mark Chernoff gets promoted from operations director at WFAN to VP/programming for both WFAN and WFNY-FM. And current WXRK afternoon guy Chris Booker will stay with 92.3 in its new incarnation, handling evenings.

Across town (OK - a block east and a couple blocks south) at Clear Channel, WWPR (105.1) has a new program director. He's Nate Bell, who comes to New York from St. Louis, where he was a Clear Channel regional VP, and he replaces Michael Saunders, who was ousted from the post amidst payola allegations in mid-October.

A few programming notes - at WNYC, Oscar Brand celebrated his 60th anniversary on the air last weekend. He's currently heard Saturday nights with his "Folksong Festival" program, and the station has a "Celebrating Oscar" special that's getting plenty of airplay during the holidays on both its AM and FM frequencies. Over at WFUV (90.7), they're putting their new performance studio to good use - the "Words and Music from Studio A" broadcasts that had been an occasional part of the "City Folk" blocks now have a regular nightly slot, every weeknight at 9. And on WFAN (660), Phillies broadcaster Tom McCarthy will replace Gary Cohen in the play-by-play chair for Mets broadcasts beginning next season, as Cohen moves to the Mets TV broadcasts.

Out on Long Island, the gospel tunes on WNYH (740 Huntington) were reportedly replaced with a loop of oldies last week; still no word on what the permanent format for the signal might be, or when it might arrive.

It's been a quiet week upstate, with just one note - all that speculation about WHLD (1270) in Buffalo becoming an Air America affiliation appears to have been, at the least, quite premature.

*CANADA's regulators are getting impatient with Aboriginal Voices Radio's repeated requests for extensions of time to build its stations in British Columbia, Calgary, Montreal, Kitchener-Waterloo and Ottawa. AVR, which currently operates only one station, Toronto's CFIE (106.5), asked the CRTC last week for a sixth extension in Ottawa and a second extension in Montreal (including an extension of time to find an alternate frequency, since it was denied its initial choice of 100.1), among other requests.

The CRTC says it's putting AVR "on notice" that it will use this proceeding to decide whether to grant the broadcaster any further extensions for its unbuilt stations. In documents filed with the CRTC, AVR indicates that it still hasn't purchased a transmitter for the Ottawa station, and that similar purchases for Montreal are on hold until a new frequency (tentatively 106.7) is approved.

Meanwhile, the CRTC has approved a power increase for CIWV (94.7 Hamilton). It'll go from 11.39 kW to 21.4 kW average ERP, increasing its reach over Hamilton, Burlington and neighboring communities.

*In MAINE, the French-language show that was displaced when WLAM (1470 Lewiston) flipped to ESPN sports has a new home. Connie Cote's show now airs on WCNM (1240 Lewiston) each Sunday.

*Gary DeGraide has been waking up RHODE ISLAND for 22 years on WWLI (105.1 Providence), but he says he'll call it quits after his Dec. 23 show. DeGraide tells the Providence Journal that he wants "to do more purposeful work within my faith." No replacement has been named yet.

*Eastern MASSACHUSETTS gets something different on the talk radio dial beginning tonight, when WRKO (680 Boston) unveils "Taste of Boston Tonight." The 7-10 PM show will be hosted by Todd Feinburg, and the station says it will go beyond Feinburg's usual focus on restaurants to cover the full range of Boston-area nightlife and entertainment, at least when it's not displaced by Celtics games. It's a far cry from the timeslot's previous occupant, Michael Savage - he'll now air on delay from 10 PM to 1 AM, displacing John Batchelor (who's still easily heard in Boston via his flagship, WABC from New York.)

Former WBIX (1060 Natick) owner Brad Bleidt was sentenced last week. As part of the plea bargain on his 115 counts of mail fraud and one count of money laundering, Bleidt will serve 11 years and 3 months behind bars, followed by three years of supervised release.

There is, we're pleased to note, some good news from WBIX, too: engineer Grady Moates is installing a brand-new Broadcast Electronics 4MX50 transmitter at the station's Framingham daytime transmitter site. We believe it's the very first 4MX50 to go into service anywhere - and we're looking forward to seeing it in the (proverbial) flesh in the spring.

You can keep tabs on the installation (and find out why Grady's wearing a Todd Rundgren T-shirt during the installation) at his Loud and Clean website...check it out!

And we still can't believe that last Friday (Dec. 9) marked the one-year anniversary of the death of WBZ's David Brudnoy.

We defer to Bruds' good friend and colleague Jon Keller on this one - in December's Boston magazine, he writes, "Pour an extra martini this season - if it quickly vanishes, it means Brudnoy's spirit is still with us."

*Working through those holiday lists? Tower Site Calendar 2006 is the perfect gift for the radio guy (or gal) who has everything else - and there's still plenty of time to get your copy under the tree/menorah/Blaw-Knox diamond tower model of your choice. (And, let's face it, wouldn't an 8-foot Blaw-Knox diamond be an amazingly cool thing to hang your ornaments on?)

We've got to say, we're especially proud of the way this year's calendar 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!

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.