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September 25, 2006

WOR Tower Demolition? Stay Tuned...


*SEASIDE, Oregon - NERW's on the other side of the country this week, attending the International Radio Club of America convention in this most scenic resort town, and we bet some of the folks at NEW YORK's WOR (710) might like to be this far from home at the moment too, after a breakdown in communications led the heavily-promoted demolition of the station's old three-tower antenna array to be indefinitely postponed at the very last minute.

We were there last Wednesday (Sept. 20), having flown down for the day, and we've never seen so many people so excited to watch a bunch of towers fall down. WOR threw a party for its clients at its new transmitter site, about half a mile north of the old site, and many engineers from the city's other stations showed up to see the action as well, as did plenty of TV and newspaper reporters from New York City and north Jersey.

Right up to the scheduled demolition time at 10 AM, excitement at the site was running high. Cameras were trained on the old 689-foot towers, waiting for the moment when the tower crews would cut one side of guy wires on each towers, letting the guys on the other two sides pull the towers down in a matter of seconds.

Then...nothing happened. After about an hour of rumors, word emerged that the Lyndhurst police department had called a halt to the demolition - and after another half-hour, Lyndhurst police chief James O'Connor appeared at the new site (in neighboring Rutherford, N.J.) to tell the gathered reporters why he'd stopped the demolition.

O'Connor says he only learned about the demolition at 8:30 that morning, and he was worried about what would happen when drivers on the New Jersey Turnpike (which runs alongside the old site, in full view of both the towers and the Manhattan skyline to the east) suddenly saw the WOR towers come tumbling down.

WOR engineering director Tom Ray, who'd hoped that the demolition would provide a celebratory cap to the years of work that have gone into the station's relocation, says the responsibility for notifying O'Connor and other public safety officials rested with "another party." (NERW believes that other party would be the developers behind Encap, the huge golf resort project that will eventually use the old WOR site.)

Will there be lawyers involved? No doubt - and in fact the lawyer for WOR's owner, Buckley Radio, was already huddling with station management when we left the site Wednesday morning. No date has been set for a second attempt to bring the towers down, and Chief O'Connor says he's going to make sure all the appropriate permits are obtained before the demolition can go forward. (O'Connor says he also wants to meet with other emergency agencies and the area's news media to make sure that the public is fully informed and that the demolition doesn't cause any panic on the Turnpike or in the areas around the site.)

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Over at the New York Post, radio columnist John Mainelli was abruptly fired late last week, with Howard Stern taking on-air credit for the action. At issue, apparently, is an article Mainelli wrote that passed along the rumor that Stern's show might return to terrestrial radio via syndication on Citadel stations. Mainelli says (in an appearance on the Opie & Anthony show Friday morning) that Mainelli also underestimated Stern's subscriber base on Sirius - and that Stern complained to Post management that Mainelli was continuing his consulting business while writing for the paper. (As a well-known former New York PD, Mainelli's consulting work was hardly a secret to anyone in the city, as far as we know.)

Mainelli says the Post gave him an ultimatum - stop consulting or stop writing for the paper. "I guess I'm fired," he told Opie & Anthony.

Former WOR morning host Ed Walsh has landed a new job: he's now the 7-9 PM anchor on WCBS (880).

In Syracuse, the driver who killed WSYR (570) reporter Bill Leaf in a wrong-way DUI crash in January will spend 12 years behind bars. Matthew Benedict was sentenced last Tuesday, after pleading guilty to DUI and vehicular manslaughter for the crash on I-81 January 8.

Terry O'Donnell moves from assistant OM/APD/MD at "Edge" WZMR (104.9 Altamont) in Albany to the PD chair at sister station WFLY (92.3 Troy). O'Donnell will also do middays at WFLY, moving Christy Taylor into afternoons.

On the TV side of things, Clear Channel-owned Fox affiliate WXXA (Channel 23) in Albany launches its new morning newscast today. "Fox 23 News DayBreak" will run from 5-8 AM, with Mark Baker and Diane Lee at the anchor desk.


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*From the callsign parking lot in PENNSYLVANIA: Clear Channel is hanging on to the WKAP calls it recently retired from what's now WYHM (1470 Allentown); those calls have now replaced WRAW on 1340 in Reading. (The calls have a long history in Allentown, most of it on what's now WTKZ 1320.)

The new 1590 CP in Kearsarge now has calls: the signal near Erie will be WCXJ.

Philadelphia's WBEB (101.1) has another trophy to add to the wall: it received the "Legendary Station of the Year" Marconi Award at the NAB Radio Show in Dallas last week.

*In southern NEW JERSEY, WDTH (93.1 Wildwood Crest) has changed calls to WEZW; expect it to break from its "Touch" urban AC simulcast with WTTH (96.1 Margate).

*In MASSACHUSETTS, "Fish" is out as morning co-host at Saga's WLZX (99.3 Northampton), leaving Leslie Hall solo in mornings again. Fish was at Springfield-market "Lazer" for just over a year, having succeeded "Omelette" on the morning menu there. (Is there a jock named "Oatmeal," or perhaps "Frosted Flake," out there looking for a gig?)

And congratulations to WEEI (850 Boston), which took home the "Major Market Station of the Year" Marconi Award from the NAB Radio Show last week!

*In CANADA, the CRTC has denied CFVD (95.5 Degelis QC) a relay transmitter in Riviere-du-Loup, the larger city to the north. The two existing stations in Riviere-du-Loup presented evidence that their financial situation was already "precarious," and that the entry of CFVD to the market would further fragment local ad revenue in the small market.

The CRTC denied Trust Communications Ministries' application for a new transmitter way up in Iqaluit, Nunavut. While Trust promised not to solicit any advertising in Nunavut, the lone local commercial station in Iqaluit, CKIQ, complained that a relay of Trust's CJLF (100.3 Barrie) would take listenership away and make it even harder to survive in that remote market.

The CRTC also denied United Christian Broadcasters' application for a new 26.5 kW transmitter on 106.5 in Foymount (near Renfrew), Ontario. Rival religious broadcaster CHRI (99.1 Ottawa) complained that the relay of CKJJ (102.3 Belleville) would impinge on its listener base in Pembroke and the Ottawa area. (CHRI also complained that UCB is based in New Zealand, but the CRTC found that claim to be without merit.)

And while the CRTC was saying "no," it also rejected an application from religious station CKOE (100.9 Moncton NB) to move from 50-watt low-power status to 725 watts/112 m. CKOE's owner, Houssen Broadcasting, says it initially applied for a low-power signal because of its "relative inexperience" with broadcasting, but the CRTC says an application to raise power beyond 50 watts should have been filed as an application for a new station, triggering a call for applications.

The CRTC does say "yes" at times, too - it granted CKSG (93.3 Cobourg) a power increase. It'll go from 2 kW to 4 kW average ERP, increasing its antenna height to 226 meters. CKSG ("Star 93.3") and Rochester's WFKL (93.3 Fairport) are both battling mutual interference problems across Lake Ontario, and CKSG argued that the power boost would help it overcome interference on its side of the lake.

CKDO (1580/107.7) in Oshawa, Ontario is getting ready to celebrate its 60th anniversary October 5 - we'll have more next week on the station's plans for a special broadcast and more!

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, or thereabouts - the column appeared on an erratic schedule in its earliest years as "New England Radio Watch," and didn't go to a regular weekly schedule until 1997. Thanks to for the idea - and thanks to you, our readers, for the support that's made all these years of NERW possible!)

September 26, 2005 -

  • 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.
  • 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."
  • 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."

September 24, 2001 -

  • The AM radio landscape in the Merrimack Valley of MASSACHUSETTS is about to change again, thanks to Costa-Eagle's $1.5 million sale of WCCM (800 Lawrence) to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston. The sale leaves Eagle-Costa with two of the valley's five AM stations: the facilities that are now running Spanish-language programming as WNNW (1110 Salem, N.H.) and WHAV (1490 Haverhill). The plan, as we understand it, is to combine their programming under the WNNW calls on the 1490 facility, with the English-language WCCM programming and calls moving to 1110.
  • The move will effectively take the Eagle-Costa stations out of contention in Lowell, where WCCM had been trying to compete with Lowell-licensed WCAP (980) with programming that included Lowell Spinners baseball. As a daytimer, the new WCCM 1110 won't be able to carry Spinners' night games, and its day signal is hard to hear in Lowell even under the best of circumstances. As for the AM 800 signal, with 1000 watts by day and 244 watts at night, it's not heard well outside the central Merrimack Valley, which leads us to wonder why the Archdiocese is spending all this money on a facility its leaders won't even hear at their suburban Boston headquarters. Could a move south be in the offing? (This isn't the Archdiocese's first broadcast effort, by the way; back in the 1960s, it owned WIHS-TV 38, ancestor of today's WSBK!) The switches are expected to take place sometime around January 2002. (2006 note: The purchase never happened, and WNNW eventually moved to 800, with WCCM taking the 1490 spot.)
  • MAINE will have a broadcast Fox affiliate after October 7 - at least for viewers in the Bangor area. WCKD-LP (Channel 30), which has been running as a UPN affiliate under LMA with ABC affiliate WVII (Channel 7), will switch to the Fox affiliation when Portland's WPXT (Channel 51) dumps Fox for WB.
  • We'll start our NEW YORK news, of course, down in Manhattan, with the latest on the recovery efforts at the World Trade Center. On the TV side, WCBS-TV (Channel 2) filed with the FCC on Wednesday to make its auxiliary site at the Empire State Building its primary site. From Empire, WCBS runs 45 kilowatts visual ERP at 389 meters above average terrain. There's not much new to report on the other stations that used the World Trade Center. We're still hearing from viewers in outlying areas such as Long Island and Connecticut that the signals on the other VHF stations from their hastily-constructed backup sites at Empire and the Armstrong tower in Alpine, N.J. are proving hard to receive. Of the FM stations, we're told WNYC-FM (93.9) is running in mono with less than a kilowatt from Empire, with most of its programming still being simulcast on the Board of Education's Brooklyn-based WNYE-FM (91.5), an arrangement that some are speculating will become permanent.

New England Radio Watch, September 26, 1996

  • The ubiquitous Dr. Laura Schlessinger has added yet another New England outlet. Hartford's WTIC (1080) has bumped Hartford Courant columnist Colin McEnroe from his mid-morning slot and dropped in Dr. Laura instead. McEnroe will be heard doing commentaries on TIC's morning and afternoon drive shows, as well as on a Sunday night talk show. Across town at WDRC (1360), Bob Grant has been dropped from the schedule, reportedly because programmers there don't think his abrasive talk fits with WDRC's standards format. Phil Callan moves from middays to PM to fill Grant's timeslot. And at WHCN (105.9), new owner SFX is moving towards classic rock, both to pull WHCN away from its new stablemate, modern-rocker WMRQ (104.1), and to go after ARS's 70s rocker, WZMX (93.7).
  • A bit further south in Connecticut, Quinnipiac College seems to be making big plans for its newly-purchased AM. The former WXCT (1220) in Hamden is now dark, but will reportedly resurface sometime in January with the WQUN calls. Quinnipiac has been advertising in the trades for a GM/PD, a morning host/operations manager, and two newspeople to work alongside the student staff. The station's in good hands; NYC radio veteran Lou Adler is apparently the driving force behind the project.
  • Two dark stations that probably won't return: WLVC (1340) Fort Kent and WSJR (1230) Madawaska, way up there in northern Maine. It's been two and a half years since these stations were on the air, and their authority to remain silent expired a year ago. The FCC is asking owner Lamoille Broadcasting for a written explanation of why the licenses shouldn't be revoked.
  • Back on the air, and with a much-improved signal, is Holliston High School's WHHB(FM) in Holliston, Mass. The station has finally made good on its plans to move from 91.5 to 99.9, and from a short tower atop the high school to a taller cellular-phone stick down the road.

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*It's here! Tower Site Calendar 2007 is now shipping, and if you took advantage of our pre-order offer, your calendar should be arriving in your mailbox any day now.

This year's edition features what we think are the finest tower images yet - from the cover image of WCCO Minneapolis all the way to the back-cover centerfold of WBZ in Boston, and from KGO San Francisco to KOIL Omaha to Philadelphia's famed Roxborough tower farm, captured in a dramatic dusk shot with the lights all aglow.

This sixth annual edition once again contains plenty of historic dates from radio and television history in the Northeast and beyond, and as always, it comes to you shrink-wrapped and shipped first class mail for safe arrival.

You can even get your 2007 calendar free with your new or renewal subscription to NERW at the $60 level.

Visit the Store and place your order today - and be among the first to get the Tower Site Calendar 2007, just as soon as it rolls off the presses in a few short weeks!

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.