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October 9, 2006

Beasley Extends its Philly Reach


*The lines between the Philadelphia, PENNSYLVANIA radio market and adjacent Wilmington, Delaware are already blurred - and now they're about to get even more smudged, as Beasley Broadcasting prepares to pay $42 million to acquire WJBR (99.5 Wilmington) from NextMedia.

The AC station transmits from just a few yards south of the state line (atop the tiny little rise of land that is Delaware's highest point), and it already puts a substantial signal over much of the Philadelphia market. But until now, it (along with Wilmington's other big FM signal, Delmarva Broadcasting's WSTW 93.7) has remained resolutely focused on Wilmington-area listeners.

But as it joins a Beasley cluster that also includes country WXTU (92.5 Philadelphia), "Wired" WRDW (96.5 Philadelphia) and business talker WWDB (860 Philadelphia), it seems likely that WJBR will begin to market itself more toward its large neighbor to the northeast. (An actual transmitter move is somewhat less likely, though far from impossible; while WJBR's short-spacings to third-adjacent WUSL on 98.9 in Philadelphia and to second-adjacent WODE on 99.9 in Easton are grandfathered, there are newer drop-in signals on the Jersey Shore that would need to be protected.)

What is NextMedia really buying for its $42 million? Stay tuned...

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*In other news from the Keystone State, EMF Broadcasting is entering the Scranton market, paying Sound of Life $675,000 for WPGP (88.3 Tafton), which has already flipped from Sound of Life's religious network (based at WFGB in Kingston, NY) to EMF's "K-Love" contemporary Christian network.

In the Harrisburg market, Rich Creeger is the new morning guy and APD at country WCAT (102.3 Carlisle), arriving from WWUZ in Fredericksburg, VA to fill the slot vacated by Don Brake's move to WHWK in Binghamton.

And one more Philadelphia note - suburban WCHE (1520 West Chester) has flipped to modern rock, promoting itself as "Where the Static Is." It's working on a power increase, from 250 to 1000 watts.


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*In CONNECTICUT, WTIC (1080 Hartford) is reshaping its afternoon programming, sending Bruce Stevens packing after 13 years in the timeslot, the last 10 alongside Colin McEnroe, who's now doing afternoons solo at the CBS Radio news-talker. Stevens tells the Hartford Courant that the station didn't renew his contract when it was up; that he found out on the way back from his daughter's wedding in Maine - and that he hopes to stay in the business full-time. (He's still heard on the weekends on Greater Media talker WTKK 96.9 in Boston.)

*Speaking of the eastern MASSACHUSETTS FM talker, it was carrying Laura Ingraham's syndicated show in its 7-10 PM slot last week, giving Michael Graham one more week in afternoon drive before reworking its schedule beginning today to move Graham to evenings and Jay Severin back to 3-7 PM. (Severin's Westwood One evening show ended September 29, and it looks like he took last week off to regroup before returning to local talk on WTKK; we note that at least two of Severin's former affiliates in NERW-land still haven't settled on a replacement, with WROW in Albany still listing him in evenings on their website, and WPHT in Philadelphia running repeats of the Michael Smerconish morning show in the evening slot.)

The year-long tribute to Reginald Fessenden's pioneering 1906 broadcasts from Brant Rock in Marshfield continued on Saturday, when South Shore radio and history buffs gathered at the Winslow House in Marshfield for a daylong symposium on early radio history.

Your editor was honored to be a participant in the gathering, showing off some of the photos I've taken over the years in historic radio facilities around the country. Nick Mills of Boston University presented an overview of the early years of radio, and Donna Halper of Emerson College (and a longtime Friend of NERW) spoke on Eunice Randall's early radio career, the story of 1XE/WGI in Medford Hillside, and the question of whether Fessenden's 1906 broadcasts really included the Christmas Eve event that's gone down in history as the legendary "first broadcast ever."

A representative from the Canadian consulate in Boston saluted Fessenden's early years north of the border, and Ed Perry of WATD (95.9 Marshfield) was there to pull it all together. He's gearing up for more Fessenden events, including a Christmas Eve (day) re-enactment of the 1906 event.

(Sadly, one of the scheduled speakers - veteran WHDH morning man Jess Cain - was unable to attend, as he battles cancer. We were sorry to have missed him, and wish him all the best!)

*In MAINE, Mike Carter is the new PD and morning man at WHCF (88.5 Bangor); he comes on board in a few weeks from WTGN (97.7) in Lima, Ohio.

*A NEW JERSEY AM station will mark its 60th anniversary this week by rededicating its studios. WCTC (1450 New Brunswick) will hold a ceremony Wednesday morning to designate its facility as the "Anthony Marano Building," in memory of the late station manager Greater Media executive who was also the voice of Rutgers basketball and football.

*There's a morning show opening in NEW YORK: WWPR (105.1 New York) has sent "Big Tigger" packing, leaving co-host Egypt and comedian Donnel Rawlings hosting the morning show for now. Tigger continues to be heard on the weekends at "Power 105."

In Albany, Greg Foster departs as operations manager/PD at WGY (810 Schenectady) and WOFX (980 Troy). He's staying within the Clear Channel family, moving west to take on the same duties at KNRS (570) in Salt Lake City.

One call change in an otherwise slow week in the Empire State: the silent 105.7 Albany move-in flips from WNYQ to WBZZ, reinforcing the idea that it will take on the "Buzz" modern AC format now on WABT (104.5 Mechanicville) whenever it finally gets back on the air after moving south from Glens Falls.

*In CANADA, CanWest (the parent company of Global TV) is exiting the radio business, selling its two stations in Winnipeg and Kitchener/Waterloo to Corus Entertainment for C$15 million. In Kitchener/Waterloo, CanWest's CKBT (91.5 the Beat) will join Corus' adult hits CJDV (107.5 Dave FM).

My Broadcasting is moving west from its home base in the Ottawa Valley. The licensee of CHMY in Renfrew and CIMY in Pembroke has been granted a new signal in Strathroy, west of London along Highway 402. My requested 1.75 kW on 91.1, but after co-channel CJRT in Toronto objected, it says it will modify its application to specify operation on 105.7 instead.

The 60th anniversary broadcast at CKDO (1580/107.7 Oshawa) last Thursday night was a success - we're told the station received phone calls and e-mails from as far away as Oregon and Scandinavia (and from Rochester, too, as we participated by phone for a few minutes to offer our congratulations!)

In New Brunswick, TFG Communications has been granted a 50-watt relay transmitter on 95.1 in Rothesay to rebroadcast its CJEF (103.5 the Pirate) from Saint John.

In Montreal, Aboriginal Voices Radio is testing its new transmitter. CKAV-FM-10 is testing on 106.7 from the CIBC Building, with 320 watts.

And across the country, CBC-TV is moving to 24-hour operation, replacing its late-night signoff with a schedule that includes a late-night movie and repeats of local news and the "Hour" talk show. (Will anyone but us miss the "kids painting a map of Canada" sign-off sequence that the CBC's used for the last 15 years or so?)

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!)

October 10, 2005 -

  • It's been a banner year for the memory of Major Edwin Howard Armstrong, the legendary inventor of the superheterodyne receiver and of FM radio. On the heels of the successful commemoration of his life at the Alpine tower site in June, the Audio Engineering Society hosted a panel discussion on the Major last night at its convention here, with your editor having the distinct honor of serving as moderator.
  • (The panel included) Armstrong historian Mike Katzdorn; transmitter builder Steve Hemphill; Armstrong's great-nephew Bob Brecht; Armstrong acquaintance Jerry Minter (who signed off the Major's KE2XCC after his death in 1954); longtime Armstrong employee Renville McMann; Gil Houck, nephew of Armstrong's longtime colleague Harry Houck; and Charles Sackermann, Jr., whose CSC Management, LLC, owns the Armstrong tower at Alpine. The discussion ranged widely across Armstrong's long career and his legacy, with the added bonus of personal recollections from Brecht of his imposing great-uncle and of the long and fascinating life that his great-aunt Marion Armstrong led after the Major's death. Thanks to Houck and Katzdorn, attendees were also able to view many Armstrong artifacts, including original logbooks from Alpine and the breadboard modulator from the early Empire State Building experiments.
  • For more than 35 years, Nick Diller woke up western MASSACHUSETTS as morning host at WSBS (860 Great Barrington); now "Griller Diller" will have plenty of time to pursue his passion of barbecue after retiring from WSBS last week. Diller, 61, tells the Berkshire Eagle he's "burned out" and not especially happy about the sale of the station last year to Vox. It appears that morning newsman Tom Jay is handling the shift solo for the moment.
  • The FCC granted a tentative preference to Living Proof, Inc. last week in the long fight for a new signal on 91.7 in east central Massachusetts. Three applicants proposed new 91.7s - Living Proof in Lunenburg, CSN International in Lexington and UMass Boston (WUMB) in Stow - and the Maynard schools proposed a signal upgrade to WAVM, also on 91.7. Longtime NERW readers may recall that the UMass application provoked concern that WAVM might be forced off the air, until WUMB and WAVM joined forces and worked out a deal that would give WUMB access to WAVM's otherwise unused airtime, and Maynard students access to WUMB's resources. Will the two now file an opposition to the proposed Lunenburg grant to Living Proof? Stay tuned...

October 8, 2001 -

  • FLASH! Clear Channel instantly became a major TV group owner in NERW-land Monday when it announced its purchase of the Ackerley Group. From a broadcast perspective, the $800 million stock-swap deal gives Clear Channel control of most of upstate New York's ABC affiliates, including WIXT (Channel 9) in Syracuse, WOKR (Channel 13) in Rochester, WIVT (Channel 34) in Binghamton, WUTR (Channel 20) in Utica and WWTI (Channel 50) in Watertown. Clear Channel also gets two NBC affiliates, WETM (Channel 18) in Elmira and WBGH-CA (Channel 20) in Binghamton. Clear Channel already owned Fox affiliate WXXA (Channel 23) in Albany (as well as cable-only "UPN 4").
  • The move creates massive radio-TV combinations in several markets. In Rochester, WOKR becomes a sister station to Clear Channel's 2 AM/5 FM group (including WHAM and WVOR). In Syracuse, WIXT joins Clear Channel's 2 AM/5 FM group that includes WSYR, WHEN, WYYY and WBBS. In Utica, WUTR will join a 4 AM/5 FM cluster - assuming the WIXT/WUTR overlap can be maintained under cross-ownership and duopoly rules. (And indeed, there's word that Clear Channel will have to divest something in both Syracuse and Bakersfield if this deal goes through.) In Binghamton, WIVT and WBGH-CA join a 2 AM/4 FM cluster that includes WINR, WENE and WMRV. The Watertown and Elmira stations represent Clear Channel's entry into those markets.
  • The real strength to this deal, though, comes outside the scope of NERW: Ackerley's outdoor advertising business gives Clear Channel a much larger presence in that sector in the Boston market, while its Seattle radio holdings bring Clear Channel Radio into that market for the first time.
  • Radio listeners in CANADA's capital city are about to get four new FM stations on their dial. The CRTC completed its review of a dozen or so applications for new FMs in Ottawa/Hull by approving a carefully chosen batch of new outlets designed to reach the broadest possible range of listeners (while, perhaps not coincidentally, having little to no effect on the existing station clusters in the region). Here's what Ottawa listeners will get within 12 months: On 89.9, the Newcap group gets 27kW for "The Planet," an English-language station billed as offering a mix of "dance, Europop, urban and Latin" music. On 95.7, Gary Farmer's Aboriginal Voices Radio will get an Ottawa facility to go with its yet-to-be-built Toronto "Jump 106.5" license. (The CBC objected to this one, citing potential interference to its CBCO 95.5 in Cornwall; Farmer promised to sign on with 6 kW instead of the proposed 8 kW and to lower power further if needed.) Radio 1540, the owner of Toronto's CHIN and CHIN-FM, will put a similar multilingual outlet on the air at 97.9, with 800 watts. And Radio Nord, owner of CHOT (Channel 40) and CFGS (Channel 49) in Hull, will get to put a French-language classical station on the air - but it will have to find a different frequency from the proposed 97.9.
  • Back on this side of the border, let's start things off in upstate NEW YORK, where Ed Levine's Galaxy group is adding to its Albany holdings even before it closes on the purchase of WABY (1400 Albany) and WKLI (94.5 Ravena). Galaxy is paying $2.4 million to buy WHTR (93.5 Corinth) from Vox - but the goal isn't to keep serving Glens Falls with oldies. WHTR holds a construction permit to move south into the Albany market by moving to 93.7 in Scotia, which sounds to us like a perfect simulcast partner for the 94.5 Ravena signal, south of Albany.

New England Radio Watch, October 11, 1996

  • Greater Boston's hard rock radio station has found a new home for its first television venture. WAAF (107.3 Worcester) had planned to debut "WAAF Real Rock" last Saturday night (10/5) on Boston University's independent TV station, WABU-TV (68). Then WABU pulled the plug with less than a week to go, saying the raunchy 'AAF telecast didn't fit with WABU's quality image (alert readers will want to note that WABU is Boston's outlet for "Baywatch;" draw your own conclusions). That didn't faze the folks at soon-to-be ARS-owned WAAF; they've found a new home on Univision affiliate WUNI (27) in Worcester, where they're scheduled to debut this Saturday (10/12) at midnight.
  • Speaking of WABU, they're bidding farewell to late-night talk host Charles Adler ("call me Chuck"), as he departs his nightly 10pm call-in spot to return home to Canada in search of greener pastures. Adler's zenith in Boston came a couple of years ago, when he was holding down 7-10pm on WRKO (680), with the middle hour simulcast on WABU. But then WABU got the Red Sox contract, bumping Adler to weird hours like 4pm and 11pm; and then WRKO bumped Chuck to weekends so it could plug in "Two Chicks Dishing" in evenings. WABU is bolstering its sports image by introducing a nightly sports talkfest in the 10pm time slot; it will be a post-game show on nights when WABU has the 'Sox or other sports.
  • One of Northern New England's biggest FM signals is temporarily off the air while it changes ownership. WZPK (103.7 Berlin NH), "the Peak," vanished from the airwaves not long after Fuller-Jeffrey Broadcasting closed on its purchase of the hot AC station last Friday. The Peak is reportedly undergoing technical improvements at its transmitter atop Mount Washington, and will reportedly be back on the air within a week or so. Stay tuned...
  • Coming soon to northern New Hampshire, eastern Maine, and a decent chunk of Quebec: More country music. NERW has learned that when WZPK (103.7 Berlin NH) returns to the airwaves from high atop Mount Washington, it will be simulcasting country WOKQ (97.5 Dover NH), one of the flagship properties of new owner Fuller-Jeffrey Broadcasting. The change will take WZPK out of the hot-AC format war with new stablemate WCSO "The Ocean" (97.9) in Portland, Maine, and it will bring WOKQ's top-rated country format to an even more enormous audience. WOKQ's primary transmitter on 97.5 covers an area from just north of Boston well up the seacoast into Maine, and a WOKQ translator on 97.9 in Manchester NH covers the densely-populated Manchester-Nashua area well. No word on a call change yet, but NERW wouldn't be at all surprised.

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*It's here! Tower Site Calendar 2007 is now shipping!

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.

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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.