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January 9, 2006

New Troubles for Maynard's WAVM

*The tangled tale of MASSACHUSETTS high school station WAVM (91.7 Maynard) took another turn last Friday, when station adviser and founder Joseph P. Magno was arrested on charges of raping a former student.

Magno, 65, will be arraigned today in Concord District Court on the charges, which also include indecent assault and battery on a child, allegedly a male student who was under 14 when the incidents began.

The news comes at a particularly challenging time for WAVM, whose fight for survival has been chronicled extensively here on NERW and elsewhere. Just before the holidays, Living Proof, Inc., the California religious broadcaster that won a "tentative preference" from the FCC to build a new facility in Lunenburg that will likely displace WAVM from its spot on the dial, offered a settlement proposal to WAVM and two other applicants that would, at least in theory, allow for two new stations on 91.7 as well as a WAVM upgrade to protected class A status.

The Living Proof filing challenges WAVM's claim that its application to become a class A signal should have been treated as a "minor" change. If treated that way, conflicting applications wouldn't have been accepted in the first place and would now be dismissed - but Living Proof attorney Harry Martin notes that both WAVM's initial application and a challenge to it from Boston's WUMB treated the move as a "major" change.

Nevertheless, Living Proof conducted engineering studies which claim that the Lunenburg station, the WAVM upgrade and CSN International's application for a new 91.7 in Lexington could all be granted with the use of directional antennas, and with the concurrence of WUMB, which has the other pending application in this mutually exclusive group of stations.

Under the proposal, the new Lunenburg signal would be aimed mainly west, while WAVM would upgrade to 100 watts at 76 meters, with a directional pattern looking rather like a Hershey's Kiss, aiming most of its signal south. The new Lexington signal would get 199 watts, also aimed mainly to the south.

Maynard officials were reportedly considering the proposal before the holidays, and with Magno's arrest, it's not clear what will become of those discussions. Even if WAVM accepts the plan, which would require a complicated and costly directional antenna, the deal still requires WUMB's approval as well - and NERW wonders whether WUMB would welcome the prospect of that new CSN signal in Lexington, which looks as though it would wreak havoc with reception of WUMB's main 91.9 signal (and even more so with its IBOC subcarriers) in Boston's western suburbs.

And of course the accusations against Magno are coming as quite a shock to the many students who passed through the WAVM radio and television program over the past three decades. Will the station with which he's been so closely identified be able to survive this latest challenge? As always, stay tuned.

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*In other news from the Bay State, the new year marked the end of WBZ (1030 Boston)'s contract to carry Paul Harvey's daily broadcasts, which have been a fixture there for years. The CBS Radio station chose not to renew its deal with ABC for Harvey (though it is apparently still using some ABC News Radio material), and so far there's been no replacement in the market. (NERW notes that the relationship between WBZ and Harvey extended to the use of morning anchor Gary LaPierre as a substitute host on the Harvey broadcasts on several occasions in the mid-nineties.)

A few other Radio People on the Move: Ben Parker moves from the WRKO newsroom to the PD chair at WEIM (1280 Fitchburg). At WZLX (100.7 Boston), Beau Raines' run as PD came to a close at the end of 2005. WUMB (91.9 Boston) is losing music director Sarah Wardrop to New York - she's headed for a new gig at WFUV (90.7) there. And a couple of "Where Are They Now?" items - veteran Boston jock "Hutch" has resurfaced as the sidekick to David Lee Roth's CBS Radio morning show (heard locally on WBCN), while former WODS morning man Paul Perry is looking for work now that his contract with Chicago's WJMK has ended. (Perry was doing mornings on WJMK's HD subchannel for the latter half of 2005, after the main channel flipped from oldies to "Jack.")

*In NEW YORK, Bob Grant returns from a three-week vacation today for his final week in the afternoon slot on WOR (710) - but what happens after that is anyone's guess. The station had announced that chef Rocco DiSpirito would get the timeslot after Grant's departure, but no sooner was that announcement made than DiSpirito announced he was leaving the station.

Uptown at WABC (770), they're experimenting with going commercial-free for two hours of morning drive. The first two hours of WABC's morning show now feature news guy George Weber in a prominent role alongside hosts Curtis Sliwa and Ron Kuby, with no commercial breaks until 7 AM. Right now it's being billed as an experiment that will last through the month. (And speaking of WABC, its former general manager, Wally Schwartz, died last month in Florida. Before moving on to bigger things at the ABC network level, Schwartz guided WABC through much of its early "Musicradio" growth.)

A few more notes from the city - the WXRK calls didn't stay idle long after departing what's now "Free FM" WFNY-FM (92.3). They're now at the former WXTM (92.3 Cleveland Heights), which will also be picking up the "K-Rock" nickname that WXRK used in New York.

On TV, Penny Crone's contract wasn't renewed at WNYW (Channel 5), so the veteran morning reporter is now across town at Sirius, doing news on the "Howard 100" channel. (Hey, he's doing something important this morning, isn't he?)

Out on Long Island, the end of 2005 was also the end of analog TV for Riverhead's WLNY (Channel 55). The independent station won FCC permission to shut off its analog signal earlier than scheduled, as part of a nationwide sale of the channel 55 bandwidth to Qualcomm for its new MediaFLO broadband service, and now WLNY is seen over the air only on WLNY-DT (Channel 57) and three LPTV signals; its main viewership, of course, is on cable and satellite.

So much for "ChannelCasting": The Morey Organization has stopped using that term on its three East End FMs, and things are pretty much back to the way they were at rocker "Bone" WBON (98.5 Westhampton), dance-top 40 "Party" WDRE (105.3 Calverton-Roanoke) and modern rock WLIR (107.1 Hampton Bays), with highly reduced spotloads the only remnant of the failed "ChannelCasting" concept.

Heading up the Hudson Valley, Ed Levine's two Albany-market FMs relaunched for the new year, dropping classic country on WEGQ (93.7 Scotia) and reworking the rock format on WRCZ (94.5 Ravena) into a new simulcast called "The Bone." JR Gach remains in place on the new station, and new calls WOOB (93.7) and WBOE (94.3) are on the way.

Sad news from Syracuse: WSYR (570) newsman Bill Leaf was killed Sunday morning when his car was hit by another car being driven the wrong way on I-81 near downtown Syracuse. Leaf, 25, also did fill-in sports on WTVH (Channel 5). A 22 year old driver from Rooseveltown faces charges of vehicular manslaughter and DWI in connection with the crash.

(In somewhat happier news, Tom Joyner will bring his syndicated morning show to the Salt City on January 20. Joyner is heard on WPHR 106.9 from 6-10 AM, and he'll host as many as 2,000 fans at his OnCenter appearance, which is free to the public.)

In Rochester, WROC-TV (Channel 8) is losing investigative reporter Steve Levine. He's off to Baltimore, where he'll work for Sinclair's Fox affiliate, WBFF (Channel 45). (WROC, a Nexstar-owned CBS affiliate, operates Sinclair's Rochester Fox affiliate, WUHF.)

And Buffalo kicks off the year with a new format, as CBS' WECK (1230 Cheektowaga) flips from standards to classic country, flanking its big sister, market-leading country FM WYRK (106.5).

*One NEW JERSEY note: Anita Bonita's now officially Big Jay Sorensen's co-host at WJRZ (100.1 Manahawkin). She's a familiar New York voice from Z100, WDBZ (105.1 the Buzz) and WNEW, among others.

*The big story from PENNSYLVANIA as 2006 dawned was the shakeup at KDKA (1020 Pittsburgh), which abruptly axed three of its talk hosts - mid-morning host Mike Pintek, evening sports host Paul Alexander and night talker Mike Romigh. KDKA-TV reporter Marty Griffin replaces Pintek in the 9-noon slot, and former PCNC talk host John McIntire has been filling in on Romigh's former 9-midnight slot, though he hasn't been formally announced as Romigh's replacement. The shakeup also ousted reporter Kyle Anthony from the KDKA newsroom.

It did, however, bring in a new face to Gateway Center: Pittsburgh native Marshall Adams will arrive later this month as KDKA's news director, the first time that post has been filled in a few years. Adams comes back to town from WBT in Charlotte, N.C..

In other 'Burgh news, WYEP (91.3 Pittsburgh) moved into its new digs at Bedford Square last week. The move takes the station from the Carson Street facility it's been using for a decade to a purpose-built two-story facility that includes a live performance studio that can fit 85 people. The station is in the midst of a $3.4 million capital campaign to pay for the new studios.

Thom Hickling, who ran his family's WPLW (1590 Carnegie, now WZUM) in the late seventies and eighties, was killed in a car crash in Zambia on Dec. 27. Hickling was 51.

Former Pittsburgher Chuck Brinkman is out at Dallas' KLUV (98.7) after 17 years in afternoon drive there; he's succeeded by another ex-Pittsburgher, John Summers. Brinkman had stepped down as KLUV's PD a year or so ago.

In Scranton, WQFM (92.1 Nanticoke) and WQFN (100.1 Forest City) relaunched after Christmas as "92.1 QFM," playing an AC blend that's heavy on music of the nineties. Meanwhile in Carbondale, WCDL (1440) has changed musical direction, ditching classic country for standards.

In Philadelphia, WPHT (1210) is reworking its nighttime lineup to accommodate the new Jay Severin syndicated show. WPHT now has former TV reporter Suzanne LaFrankie on from 6-7, followed by Severin from 7-10. That pushes Dom Giordano back to 10-midnight, Bill O'Reilly to midnight-2, and Rollye James completely out of the weekday schedule. (She's still heard on weekend overnights.)

*Heading back up towards New England, the new year starts with one fewer tower site in CONNECTICUT. WSHU (1260 Westport) lost its two-tower site last fall, and it's operating for now from a dipole strung from the nearby SNET telephone tower.

Bernard Hurwitz, the longtime host of the "Jewish Variety Hour" on a succession of New Haven stations (beginning with the long-defunct WBIB-FM), died January 2. Hurwitz, who went by "Berel Howard" on air, was 80.

*In RHODE ISLAND, WALE (990 Greenville) has been silent for almost two weeks now. The station is reportedly reworking its programming and may relaunch as an English-language talker later in January.

Over at Clear Channel, Steve Peck is out as PD of WSNE (93.3 Taunton MA) and WWBB (101.5 Providence). Chris Eagan is acting PD at WSNE, while Tom St. John is holding down the post at WWBB.

*In NEW HAMPSHIRE, WSMN (1590 Nashua) is slowly returning to a separate existence. It's breaking from its simulcast with sister WSNH (900 Nashua) for some sports coverage, and beginning this week, veteran host Woody Woodland joins the station from 7-9 AM weekdays. (Woodland is actually using the old Russco console that was salvaged from the former WSMN studios on Hollis Street!)

Up in the Lakes Region, Konrad Kayne is out at WLKZ (104.9 Wolfeboro). Kayne's career includes stops at WBHG, WZID and several other New Hampshire stations, and he's now on the hunt for his next gig.

And we're sorry to report the end of the "Weather Notebook" show, which has ceased production after 12 years of bringing weather information from the top of Mount Washington. The Mount Washington Observatory says it couldn't find continued sponsorship for the two-minute syndicated feature.

*In CANADA, the CRTC granted a new signal in Haldimand County, Ontario to Bel-Roc Communications. Bel-Roc had initially applied for 106.7, but that frequency was instead granted to CIKZ (99.5 Kitchener-Waterloo). It then applied for 92.9, competing with an application from CHCD (98.9 Simcoe) for a relay transmitter on 93.1 in Haldimand County. The new station (with planned calls CKNS) promised the CRTC that it won't solicit advertising in Simcoe (to the west) or the Hamilton market, to the east.

Up in Sudbury, CHNO (103.9) dropped its "Z103" top-40 format and has flipped to adult hits as "Big Daddy 103.9."

In Ottawa, Newcap's CILV (Live 88.5) launched on December 26, with what sounds very much like a AAA format. Across town, Evanov's CJWL (Jewel 98.5) is now planning a February launch. It's hired Al Baldwin, formerly of CIWW (Oldies 1310), as its music director, while Saul Jacobson moves from afternoons at CJMJ (Majic 100) to become the new station's morning host.

And on TV, the CBC has reshuffled its news programming. "Canada Now" is now a national newscast seen at 5:30 across the country, followed by a half-hour local "CBC News at Six" in each market.

*Didn't find a Tower Site Calendar 2006 under the tree/menorah/Blaw-Knox diamond tower model of your choice over the holidays? Our supply is running low, but you've still got time to place your order - don't wait!

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 2006 by Scott Fybush.