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February 20, 2006

WEEI heads west with WBEC-FM buy

*MONDAY MORNING UPDATE - Curt Gowdy, the legendary voice of the Red Sox who later became a network sportscaster and station owner (at Lawrence's WCCM/WCGY and several stations in Wyoming), died early this morning at his home in Florida. Gowdy was 86.

Funeral arrangements were incomplete Monday morning - stay tuned for updates right here.

*Boston's sports radio giant, Entercom's WEEI (850), is about to reach even more of MASSACHUSETTS, now that Entercom is paying $5.75 million to acquire WBEC-FM (105.5), the class A FM signal that Vox is moving from its longtime home in Pittsfield to Easthampton, where it will transmit from Mount Tom with a signal reaching from Springfield north into most of the Pioneer Valley.

The move will extend WEEI's reach one more market to the west, joining the mothership in Boston, Worcester's WVEI (1440) and WEEI-FM (103.7 Westerly RI), which covers all of Rhode Island and big chunks of eastern Connecticut and southeastern Massachusetts.

Entercom says it hopes to have the Mount Tom signal on the air by April. Like WVEI, the 105.5 signal won't carry WEEI's Red Sox coverage - those rights are still with Clear Channel's WHYN (560 Springfield) this year - but it's not hard to imagine that the reach of the growing WEEI network will be a selling point for Entercom as it tries to extend its deal with the Sox, which expires at the end of the 2006 season. (This season will be the team's first on WEEI-FM, which picks up the Providence market rights from WPRO.)

As for Pittsfield, it won't lose the programming now heard on "Live 105.5." As had been widely suspected, the top 40 format (and the calls, too) will migrate down the dial to WUPE (95.9 Pittsfield), which has been simulcasting "Whoopie" oldies with WMNB (100.1 North Adams). "Whoopie" will continue on the North Adams signal, and we'd be not one bit surprised if the WUPE calls move up Route 7 to that 100.1 facility as well.

MANDATORY SUBSCRIPTION FEES? They've become a fact of life for many of the most popular radio and TV websites out there. This week, the leading aircheck archive site - Uncle Ricky's - was forced to implement a subscription fee to help cover the rising costs of keeping that wonderful site on line. Out on the West Coast, subscription fees are a fact of life at and, too.

Here at East RadioWatch, we've managed to hold off from imposing a password and mandatory subscription fee, but we depend on your support - and that of our advertisers - to keep it that way.

If you still haven't subscribed yet for 2006, do it right now at our Support page - and enjoy another exciting year of NERW, guilt- (and password-) free. And if you have become one of our many subscribers, thank you!

*Entercom was making headlines last week at its other Boston AM property as well. After just five months programming WRKO (680), Brian Whittemore is headed back to Minnesota, where the former WBZ news and program director landed a few years back at the end of an Infinity career that had him managing KDKA in Pittsburgh and WCCO in Minneapolis. WEEI programmer Jason Wolfe will now serve as "VP for AM programming," overseeing both WEEI and WRKO - and while Entercom is saying that Whittemore's role at WRKO, where he oversaw programming shakeups that included the introduction of "Taste of Boston Tonight" in the evenings and a more news-oriented morning show, was never meant to be anything more than temporary. We don't recall any mention of a "temporary" role when Whittemore was named to the job, but then, all jobs in this business are temporary, one way or another, aren't they?

Over at CBS Radio, WZLX (100.7 Boston) is getting a new PD. Mike Thomas comes to town next week to fill the shoes of the departed Beau Raines. Thomas most recently served as PD of KGB (101.5) in San Diego, and his resume also includes a programming stint at WFBQ (94.7) in Indianapolis.

The impending sale of WJDA (1300 Quincy) and WESX (1230 Salem) to an owner who'll lease out most of the stations' airtime to religious and ethnic broadcasters is spurring complaints from some North and South Shore residents. In Weymouth, selectmen passed a resolution calling on WJDA's new owner, Otto Miller, to retain local news coverage. Miller says he's not planning to keep any of the stations' 13 employees once the sale closes, and he's told several North Shore newspapers that he's looking to move WESX's transmitter from its longtime home in Marblehead, as well. (With WKOX on 1200 soon to move its transmitter to Oak Hill, it's not at all clear that WESX has much room to move, especially as far south as Lynn, where Miller has said he'd like to move the transmitter.)

Meanwhile, WATD (95.9 Marshfield) owner Ed Perry, never one to miss an opportunity to make his South Shore station even more local, says he'll expand local news coverage into some of the communities now served by WJDA once that station changes format.

WGBH (89.7 Boston) may soon get a Canadian audience. The Bell ExpressVu direct-to-home satellite service has applied to the CRTC for permission to add WGBH and Seattle's KUOW-FM (94.9) to its offerings of U.S. broadcast signals, which already include several Boston TV stations.

And one TV note - out in Springfield, LIN Television has applied to change the calls of dark LPTV station W28CT (which is moving from Hartford to the WWLP-TV tower on Provin Mountain) to WXCW-CA. Gee...could LIN be hoping to line up the CW affiliation for this new signal? (Just guessing...)

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*The largest radio group in northwestern PENNSYLVANIA is getting a new owner, as NextMedia prepares to sell its cluster of signals in Erie to Connoisseur Media. This is the second version of Jeff Warshaw's Connoisseur group, which had holdings in Youngstown, Ohio, among other places, before selling to Cumulus in 2000. Among the stations Warshaw owned in Youngstown was WHOT (101.1), one of the stations founded by legendary broadcaster Myron Jones - and among the stations Warshaw will get with the $17.35 million purchase of the NextMedia Erie properties is WJET (1400), which was once Jones' flagship property.

The cluster also includes sports talker WFNN (1330 Erie), country WUSE (93.9 Fairview), oldies WFGO (94.7 Erie), classic rock WRKT (100.9 North East) and top 40 WRTS (103.7 Erie). NextMedia partner Rick Rambaldo, whose history with the stations goes back two decades to his purchase of then-WHYP-FM and creation of "Rocket 101," says he hopes to remain with the cluster as station manager after the sale closes.

(And a tip of the NERW editorial hat to the Erie Times-News, which provided some of the most comprehensive coverage of a radio station sale that we've seen in a local paper in a long time, complete with a timeline chronicling the various sales that assembled the NextMedia group.)

Over in the State College market, the move-in of WXOT (99.5 Mount Union) to its new city of license, Centre Hall, was accompanied by a call and format change. The 99.5 signal is now WLTS, with the "Lite" AC format previously heard on 94.5 State College. That 94.5 facility, in turn, changed calls to WSMO, and will relaunch later this week with smooth jazz, we hear.

In Pittsburgh, "Bob FM" WBZB (96.9 Braddock) has filled out its jock lineup with another voice from its previous incarnation as WRRK. Middayer Kevin Battle joins mornng man Steve Rohan and afternoon jock John Nene on "Bob," which remains automated nights and weekends.

Clear Channel's WKST-FM (96.1 Pittsburgh) has a new PD, as Dylan arrives from WNOU (93.1 Indianapolis), where he was APD/music director.

And we're sorry to report the death of Ron Keys, a DJ at WJPA (95.3/1450 Washington), who died Feb. 1 at age 39. Keys also worked as a freelance DJ, and was an alumnus of WVCS (91.9 California) at California University of Pennsylvania, where a scholarship fund in his memory is being established.

*NEW YORK's WOR (710) is revamping its daytime lineup, adding a new voice to its morning show, naming two replacements for Bob Grant's afternoon slot, and adding a new daily feature from Grant himself, too. In mornings, TV personality (and Rudy Giuliani's ex-wife) Donna Hanover will join Ed Walsh beginning March 6. The morning show will also add Grant's new "Straight Ahead" one-minute commentary segment. Meanwhile, Ellis Henican and Lynne White have been named to replace Grant in the 4-6 PM slot.

Mara Melendez is leaving WWPR (105.1 New York), where she was music director. She's heading south to sister Clear Channel hip-hop outlet WMIB (103.5 Fort Lauderdale), to serve as PD there.

Out on Long Island, WKJY (98.3 Hempstead) has moved John Tesh's syndicated show up to a 5 PM start time. Meanwhile, WALK-FM (97.5 Patchogue) traffic reporter James Buckley faces up to 15 years behind bars after pleading not guilty to ten counts of possessing child pornography. Buckley is confined to his home while awaiting his next court appearance.

Last week's mention of the new 94.5A allottment in Water Mill prompted quite a bit of response from NERW readers, who pointed out that the new signal - if it survives a challenge - will disrupt several Long Island translators of WMNR (88.1 Monroe CT) and may also endanger the existence of Scotty Hart's impressive LPFM operation, WLIX-LP (94.7 Ridge). There aren't a lot of spots that "Radio X" can move to, and we're hoping his well-programmed little station can find a way to survive this threat.

Upstate, the big news was the sale of WSPQ (1330 Springville). The little AM nestled in the hills of southern Erie County, just out of range of Buffalo listeners (though well within the range of Buffalo's big signals), changes hands from William Haws' Hawk Communications to Terrance Grant's Biscuit Communications, for $110,000.

In Rochester, a judge has given WROC-TV (Channel 8) an extra month to respond to the lawsuit filed by former weekend anchor Rachel Barnhart, who's seeking to invalidate her noncompete agreement with the station. A hearing in the case is now scheduled for mid-March. (And we should note that the local paper did finally run an article on the lawsuit, several days after it had been reported on Bob Lonsberry's WHAM talk show and here on NERW.)

Up north, WWJS (90.1 Watertown) has officially changed calls to WKWV under new "K-Love" owner EMF Broadcasting. And over in Saranac Lake, the new TV construction permit on channel 40 has taken the calls WCWF. Will the new signal, expected to sign on as a digital-only facility serving Burlington and Plattsburgh, be seeking affiliation with the CW network? Sure looks that way, doesn't it?

*A CONNECTICUT obituary: Dick Buonerba, who became the "voice of WNLK" during his long association with the Norwalk station, died Feb. 12 at age 82. Buonerba later worked for WMMM (1260 Westport), and he's fondly remembered by many in Fairfield County for giving them a start in broadcasting, back when such things actually happened at small-town radio stations.

And Dennis Jackson, one of many who got a start from Buonerba, checked in to point out that the WPSB calls that used to grace the 99.9 in Bridgeport (now WEZN-FM) are back in use, on AM 1320 in Birmingham, Alabama - a station that was itself called WEZN for a few years. (The WEZN calls are still in use on AM on WPSB's sister station, the former WSGN 610.)

*In RHODE ISLAND, WPRO (630 Providence) has filled the 9-11:45 AM talk slot left vacant by Steve Kass' departure to become spokesman for Gov. Donald Carcieri. Dave Barber, who's been working as a talk host at WWCK (1570) in Flint, Michigan, comes to WPRO as Kass' replacement.

We also note the death of Dave Ciniero, who had quietly been hosting the morning show on KVTA (1520 Port Hueneme CA) from Rhode Island for the last few months. Ciniero, a 20-year veteran of Ventura County radio at KVEN and then KVTA, relocated to Providence a few months ago to take care of an ailing family member. He died Friday (Feb. 17) at age 58.

*In NEW HAMPSHIRE, Mark Healey moves from the sports chair at WKNE-FM (103.7 Keene) to the host chair in morning drive at WINQ (98.7 Winchester), where he replaces Jeff Stout.

Up the valley a bit, we note the death of Alexander "Sandy" McDonald, Jr., whose career included a stop at Boston's WEEI and at WTSN (1270 Dover). McDonald died Feb. 6 at his home in Unity, N.H. He was 68.

*Some good news from MAINE: after suffering a stroke January 19, Doug Rafferty returned to the anchor chair at WGME (Channel 13) in Portland last week. Rafferty was rushed to the hospital after co-workers noticed his speech was slurred during his 5 and 6 PM newscasts. At the time, doctors said they expected a 100% recovery, and that's just what happened. Nice to have him back!

*And just one bit of news from CANADA: The CRTC has granted CFOU (89.1 Trois-Rivieres) permission to boost power from 3 kW to 25 kW, lowering its antenna somewhat. The move came over the objection of a co-channel station in Quebec and an adjacent-channel station in Montreal, which argued that a power boost at CFOU would intefere with their signals.

From the NERW Archives

(Yup, we've been doing this a long time now, and so we're digging back into the vaults for a look at what NERW was covering one, five and ten years ago this week. Thanks to for the idea - and thanks to you, our readers, for the support that's made all these years of NERW possible!)

February 21, 2005 -

  • It was a quiet week stateside (which was convenient, seeing as how we spent it visiting stations in New York City and Philadelphia instead of chained to the keyboard), so we'll start things off in CANADA this week. And being that it was a quiet week in the major cities, we're left to kick off this week's report way up in Port Elgin, Ontario, a quiet - and very nice - little town on the shore of Lake Huron. Until now, broadcasting in Port Elgin has meant CFPS (1490), the 1000-watt simulcast of Bayshore Broadcasting's oldies CFOS (560) over in Owen Sound, 20 miles or so to the east. Now the CRTC has approved Bayshore's application to take CFPS dark, replacing it with a new adult contemporary station on 97.9, with 3800 watts of power and 126 hours a week of local programming for a community that's had almost none until now.
  • But wait, there's more: the CRTC also approved a rival application from Brian Cooper and Daniel McCarthy, for a new adult classic hits station with transmitters in Kincardine, Goderich and Port Elgin. The Kincardine signal will be at 95.5 with 5660 watts, while Goderich will operate on 99.7 with 1670 watts. And while Cooper and McCarthy had applied for 97.9 in Port Elgin as well, they'll have to find a new frequency (though the CRTC approved the application in principle.)
  • A developing story in NEW YORK finds state attorney general Eliot Spitzer issuing subpoenas to Entercom, Infinity and Clear Channel over allegations of payola. You'll recall that those allegations forced WKSE (98.5 Niagara Falls) PD Dave Universal out the door at that Entercom station, and reportedly led to the departure of Infinity Rochester programmer John McCrae (a story that's still never been reported by Rochester's daily newspaper; perhaps Spitzer's involvement will finally get them to play months-late catchup, though we somehow doubt it.) And Clear Channel just showed the PD of its Chicago gospel station the door over similar allegations. Particularly in light of Spitzer's well-publicized higher political ambitions (he's running for governor next year), this story is far from over.

February 12, 2001 -

  • One of the most popular programs to come out of the New England public radio scene in recent years is in a state of turmoil this week, with its host and senior producer on paid leave and most of its staff having resigned, all over a dispute about who will share in the proceeds from NPR syndication. We speak, of course, of "The Connection," Christopher Lydon's daily two-hour haven of erudite conversation. A staple of the WBUR-FM (90.9 Boston) lineup since the mid-nineties, the show has been distributed in recent years to several dozen public radio outlets nationwide. But as WBUR head honcho Jane Christo prepared to take The Connection to NPR's national lineup, it seems Lydon and producer Mary McGrath wanted to share in the riches the program was producing for the WBUR folks. The two proposed to form a production company with WBUR to distribute the program, a move WBUR interpreted as insubordination, and so it was that WBUR escorted Lydon and McGrath from the building last week, putting them on a two-week paid suspension. You don't do something like that to an entrenched Boston media veteran like Lydon (the former anchor of WGBH-TV's Ten O'Clock News and a former newspaper reporter) without expecting all hell to break loose in the papers, and thus the pages of the Globe have been filled with articles about Lydon's dispute with WBUR -- complete with the revelation of Lydon's WBUR salary ($175,000 this year, but with raises taking him to $280,000 in a few years) and the disclosure of increasingly testy e-mails between Lydon and his WBUR bosses. If WBUR was still hoping for a quick, quiet resolution to all the hoo-hah, those hopes were dashed over the weekend when several Connection staffers quit in protest. Meanwhile, WBUR has been using substitute hosts on the Connection -- but will NPR have any interest in the show if Lydon and his crew don't return? We'll let you know how this one plays out.
  • Elsewhere in MASSACHUSETTS, One-on-One Sports (soon to be the Sporting News Radio Network) finally flips calls on its Boston outlet, more than four years after acquiring WNRB (1510). It's now WSZE, "The Sports Zone," and for Garrett and anyone else who's keeping count, that makes callsign number seven for the erstwhile WMEX.
  • Into NEW YORK we head, and back to the land of Syracuse Community Radio. We've been recounting the tangled tale of WXXC (88.7 Truxton) in recent weeks, including the apparent filing of a misleading application to cover its construction permit just days before expiration -- even though nothing had yet been built at WXXC's site! And you'll recall that a NERW visit to the site a few days later turned up an antenna (lower than specified on the CP) but no signal. Well... as we pointed the NERW-mobile towards Philadelphia two weekends ago (much more on the trip in a bit), we actually heard WXXC on the air, sort of. The signal is just barely perceptible on I-81 crossing the Onondaga/Cortland county line south of Syracuse, and disappears again well before Cortland itself. Just as we started wondering whether WXXC would serve more than a few hundred potential listeners, though, the FCC beat us to the punch: On February 12, just two days after we heard WXXC for the first time, the FCC cancelled the station's license and deleted its callsign. We suspect an appeal from SCR, but we suspect (given what we heard of the WXXC signal) that the group would do better to apply its energy to its other applications, which promise to deliver more signal to areas where people actually live.

February 17, 1996 -

  • To paraphrase Mark Twain, rumors of the demise of sports on WBPS (AM 890 Dedham-Boston) appear to have been greatly exaggerated. Station owner Douglas Broadcasting has pulled back from its plans to take the signal to leased-time ethnic or religious in the wake of the end of a full-time lease to Prime Sports Radio. For the last week or so, we've been treated to nonstop music (well, they break for PSA's once an hour), ranging from blues to disco to oldies. Now it appears that veteran Boston sports voice Jimmy Myers (ex-WEEI, ex-WBZ, ex-WFXT-TV, ex-WWOR New York, etc.) will take over morning drive on 890 starting March 4. The Boston Herald's Jim Baker (probably the most accurate radio writer in town) says local lawyer Mark Miliotis will pony up the $4,000 a week for the airtime. Meantime, Douglas has struck a separate deal to bring former umpire Dave Pallone to WBPS from noon till 3 daily. Anyone else wanting to lease time on WBPS has to track them down first -- the station's 617-242-0890 main number is disconnected, and the promised website never materialized. To be continued, no doubt.
  • Moving ever closer to CHR?: American Radio Systems' WBMX, "Mix 98.5," bills itself as a hot AC, but between the addition of John Lander (ex-Z100) in mornings last week, and the 80s CHR show they're running every Friday night, and the playlist that's edging out as far as Gin Blossoms and Alanis Morrissette, it's looking more and more as though ARS wants to use Mix as a blunt weapon against Evergreen's sagging CHR, Kiss-108 (WXKS 107.9).
  • And finally, speaking of ad revenue, the Boston Herald today reports Duncan's American Radio's estimates of total revenue for the market in 1995. Among individual stations, top billers were modern rock WBCN with $19.5 million, closely trailed by all-news WBZ and sports WEEI. Among groups, American Radio Systems (WRKO/WBMX/WEEI/WEGQ) dominated, pulling in more than 25 percent of all the market's revenue. Still, it's got to beat Cincinnati, where Duncan says Jacor controls almost 62 percent of the market's revenue. Something deep inside me says this just can't possibly be healthy.

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*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.