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October 16, 2006

Smooth Jazz Returns to Philadelphia


*Fans of smooth jazz in southeast PENNSYLVANIA and southern NEW JERSEY are about to get their format back.

Greater Media, which is acquiring WTHK (97.5 Burlington NJ) in a trade with Nassau, announced last week that it will flip the station from classic rock ("The Hawk") to smooth jazz on November 15, bringing back the format and the WJJZ calls that disappeared from the market when Clear Channel flipped the previous WJJZ (106.1 Philadelphia) to rhythmic AC "Philly's 106.1" as WISX in August.

The new WJJZ will launch from the longtime 97.5 transmitter site in Trenton, since Greater Media has not yet finished (or, as far as we know, even started) construction of the station's new transmitter facility at the Wyndmoor tower site just outside Philadelphia.

Assuming nothing changes between now and November - it's always at least slightly risky, after all, to announce a format flip this far in advance - the flip to smooth jazz will broaden the demographic range of Greater's Philadelphia cluster, which currently leans heavily male and rock-oriented with sports WPEN (950), rock WMMR (93.3), adult hits WBEN-FM (95.7) and classic rock WMGK (102.9).

Greater Media says it will have the new signal from Wyndmoor on the air by January always, stay tuned!

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*In other Philadelphia news, Janita Jones is out in middays at Beasley's WRDW (Wired 96.5), with Casey moving from the morning show to replace her. Over at WXPN (88.5)'s "YRockon" service, former WPLY morning host Marilyn Russell comes on board for Friday afternoons.

In Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, WBSX (97.9 Hazleton) music director/midday jock James McKay moves up to the PD slot vacated by Chris Lloyd when he moved to WBAB on Long Island. McKay will shift to the afternoon air chair, with Zoey moving from nights to middays and weekender Cayden taking over nights.


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*Some sad news out of eastern MASSACHUSETTS this week - WBZ (1030 Boston) nighttime talk host Paul Sullivan isn't out of the woods yet as he continues his fight against brain cancer. Sullivan underwent two operations in 2004, but recent tests turned up more signs of cancer, so he was back at Mass General last week for a third surgery. The good news? Word is he's already recuperating, and planning to be back on the air in time for election night next month.

Emerson College's WERS (88.9 Boston) is hearing the feedback from its recent schedule changes, which dropped the midday "Jazz Oasis" show, the "Gyroscope" world-music show and the late-night dance show "Revolutions." WERS moved the reggae show "Rockers" later into the evening (7-10 PM instead of 4-8 PM), filling the remainder of its daytime hours with a new AAA-ish format it calls "Music for the Independent Mind," which combines the former morning show, "Coffeehouse," with some of the world music and dance music that was heard in other parts of the day.

The station says the move will make its sound more consistent, as well as solving the problem of finding hosts to play jazz in the middle of the day - but we're hearing from at least some listeners who aren't thrilled by the changes. (WERS' weekend schedule, by the way, remains largely unchanged.)

*NEW HAMPSHIRE Public Radio went, er, "public" last week with the details of its expansion plans. The statewide network says it's outgrown its home on North Main Street in Concord, and it's looking forward to a mid-2007 move into new quarters in the former Blue Cross building. NHPR has already raised $2.6 million of the $6.5 million it's seeking - $5.5 million for the new facilities, which will include a 60-seat live performance studio and $1 million for conversion to HD Radio, enabling it to multicast three program streams around the Granite State.

In Nashua, the old WSMN (1590) towers are gone, but they're still causing headaches. The station's former licensee, "WSMN Broadcasting LLC," appealed a $7,000 FCC fine stemming from a 2004 inspection that found the bases of the towers were overgrown and the fences were missing. The FCC says even though WSMN Broadcasting didn't own the towers, it's still responsible for the fine. (WSMN is now operating under special temporary authority from the site of sister station WGAM 900.)

*When is "late news" not necessarily late news? When it's taped several hours before airtime, as Bangor's WVII-TV (Channel 7) plans to do with its 11 PM newscast, and the 10 PM news it airs on sister station WFVX-LP (Channel 22). "Not a whole lot happens in Bangor, Maine late at night," says GM Mike Palmer to the Bangor Daily News - and while that's probably true, we've got to imagine that when something does happen at night in Bangor, viewers there will be tuning to crosstown WABI-TV and WLBZ rather than to WVII/WFVX. (Of course, the ratings suggest that most of them are doing that already, anyway.)

WVII says it will continue to offer live sports on Friday nights, and Palmer took a slap at WLBZ as well, saying "it’s not like we’re putting on the news from Portland and masquerading ourselves as a Bangor TV station." (Much of WLBZ's news comes from sister station WCSH in Portland.)

And speaking of budget-cutting TV news operations, we're at least slightly bemused by the "Preserve Local TV" campaign being run by Nexstar's stations around the country, including WROC/WUHF in Rochester, WUTR/WFXV in Utica, WBRE/WYOU in Scranton and WJET/WFXP in Erie. Claiming "local TV is threatened by Congress," the campaign is running frequent on-air announcements asking viewers to contact lawmakers and "save local TV." What's it really all about? Expanding TV duopoly and preserving the LMA-style arrangements under which Nexstar operates more than one signal in each of those markets - and in which it axed local news completely in Utica and cut back staff and news budgets in other markets.

*The towers are finally up on Mount Mansfield, and the DTV signals are lighting up the airwaves in northern VERMONT. WCAX-DT (Channel 53) will be on the air within the next week or two from its new tower on Mansfield, to be followed in short order by WPTZ-DT (Channel 14), WVNY-DT (Channel 13) and WFFF-DT (Channel 43). Once analog TV goes away in 2009, the older towers on the mountain - including the WVNY analog antenna, on a separate tower not shown here - will come down, leaving only the new WCAX and WVNY towers standing. (Thanks to Vermont Public Radio for the photo!)

Across the lake in Plattsburgh, NEW YORK, we hear the sale of WWBI-LP (Channel 27) to the "Word of God Religious Fellowship" has fallen through, and the station has reverted from Daystar religion to the i (formerly PAX) programming it was carrying until 2005. The station is on the market again, and we hear a new buyer could be announced soon.

In Glens Falls, WQYQ (101.7 Hudson Falls) changes calls to WNYQ, returning those calls to the market where they were formerly heard on 105.7 (now silent, as it prepares to move into Albany.)

Radio People on the Move: Jim Kerr has renewed his contract with Clear Channel's WAXQ (104.3 New York), which will keep him in morning drive through at least 2009. CBS Radio's "Free FM" WFNY-FM (92.3 New York) is looking for a new PD, as Mark Chernoff focuses on his other PD chair, at sports WFAN (660). Over at Salem's WMCA (570)/WWDJ (970 Hackensack NJ), Susan Lucchesi arrives from Cumulus in Lake Charles, Louisiana to replace Dave Armstrong as general manager. (Armstrong's heading for Salem's San Diego cluster.) And Joan Gerberding, who spent much of her career at Nassau, has departed her job as director of radio operations for Access.1 Communications, which owns WWRL (1600), the city's Air America outlet. (No, we're not ignoring the bankruptcy announcement from the progressive talk network - but it's been well covered in the national trades, and until it looks like it will have any effect on programming at WWRL or the region's other Air America affiliates, there's not much we can add.)

In Albany, Mick Lee moves back from Washington DC (where he was briefly at "Hot 99.5" WIHT after leaving Clear Channel's WKKF), joining WFLY (92.3 Troy) to do afternoons with Christy Taylor. PD Terry O'Donnell moves into Taylor's former midday slot.

At SUNY Oneonta, the construction permit for WUOW-LP (104.7) has been returned to the FCC; the school also has noncom WONY (90.9), which continues to operate.

In Buffalo, several stations were knocked off the air by the surprise early blizzard that whipped through the area Thursday night and Friday; we hear Entercom's news/talk WBEN (930) was being simulcast on sister station WWKB (1520) at the height of the storm. (And, no, we didn't have any significant snowfall at all here in Rochester, 70 miles to the east.)

Congratulations to John Lyons, the veteran New York engineer who's spent the last few years developing and managing the Four Times Square transmitter facility that's been such a crucial part of the 9/11 recovery for so many of the city's radio and TV stations - he's just been named "Engineer of the Year" by Radio World (for which your editor is a columnist and contributing writer, too.)

*In CANADA, Blackburn Radio's CIBU (94.5 Wingham) has been granted a relay transmitter in Bluewater, near Sarnia. The new signal will operate on 91.7 with 2.3 kW, covering an area where CIBU suffers co-channel interference from WCEN-FM (94.5 Mount Pleasant MI). Bayshore Broadcasting opposed the grant, saying it planned to use 91.7 in an application for a new signal in Goderich, Ontario, but the CRTC says it can find an alternate frequency for the Goderich station, if granted.

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 17, 2005 -

  • One of RHODE ISLAND's most experienced and talented TV reporters died unexpectedly early Wednesday morning (Oct. 12) at his Cape Cod home. Jack White's journalism career began at the Newport Daily News in 1969 and soon took him to the Providence Journal, where he won a Pulitzer Prize in 1974 for his reporting that discovered President Nixon had cheated on his taxes. (It was that story, published in October 1973, that led Nixon to make his "I am not a crook" speech.)
  • White moved to television in 1979, working on the "I-Team" at Boston's WBZ-TV (Channel 4). He returned to newspapers at the Cape Cod Times two years later, then joined WPRI (Channel 12) in 1985 as the station's chief investigative reporter, a position he would hold for two decades. White's tenure at WPRI included two Emmys, one for a 1992 report on fugitive banker Joseph Mollicone and one just this year for his reporting on Providence city officials who violated the city's residency requirement.
  • What's up with Jay Severin's timeslot on WTKK (96.9 Boston)? The Greater Media talk station now says Severin won't return to its airwaves in the afternoon until (and unless) 'TKK reaches a deal to carry the Long Island-based host's new syndicated show, which debuts in January. In the meantime, Sean Hannity continues to air from 3-6 PM on WTKK, followed - this week, anyway - by former WMAL Washington talk host Michael Graham.
  • It's farewell time for one of NEW HAMPSHIRE's best-known broadcasters. After a decade and a half transforming New Hampshire Public Radio from a sleepy, small-town station into a nationally respected statewide network, Mark Handley has departed his post at the helm of the network. Sometime in the next few days, Mark and his wife Judy will head out of Boston Harbor in their 42-foot sailboat, "Windbird," to spend the next two years circumnavigating the globe. (You can follow their progress at
  • "They took the crosstown bus." Confused by that? So were radio listeners across the state, who heard that cryptic message one afternoon last week during an Amber Alert EAS activation from the state's emergency management office. The message was apparently part of a test that was transmitted by mistake, and it aired on numerous stations across the state.

October 15, 2001 -

  • NEW YORK is where we start this week's report, with word that the latest round of anthrax scares disrupted things at Clear Channel/Albany Saturday morning. Two envelopes containing a whitish, sticky substance showed up in the station's mail, sending WGY (810 Schenectady) talk host Joe Gallagher to the hospital for a check-up after opening them. Gallagher wasn't hurt, and police think the whole thing was a hoax. (Sign of the times, though: we're seeing job listings that specify e-mail applications only because of delays processing paper mail!)
  • New York City's WKTU (103.5 Lake Success) is moving again. One of the four FMs displaced in the World Trade Center collapse, the Clear Channel station was the most fortunate, since it had a fully-functioning auxiliary facility at Four Times Square that was back on the air within moments. But that site is significantly lower than the rest of the market's FMs, and so Clear Channel is looking elsewhere for long-term use. An application filed last week will move WKTU to the ERI master antenna on the Empire State Building, joining more than a dozen other FMs (including fellow WTC refugees WPAT-FM and WNYC-FM) on the city's tallest remaining structure. The engineering study (dated September 12 - they weren't wasting any time!) notes that WKTU will suffer slight additional interference from WBZO (103.1 Bay Shore) and WNNJ-FM (103.7 Newton NJ) as a result of the move, an inevitable result of the area's overstuffed FM spectrum.
  • WNYC-FM, meanwhile, says it will cost $4 million to get back up to full power from Empire. It's looking to fellow public radio stations to help, and indeed Minnesota Public Radio has already received special permission from the FCC to do on-air fundraising to benefit WNYC, with other stations expected to follow suit.
  • The TV DX types down that way tell NERW that the city's VHF signals are slowly getting back up to viewable power, with decent pictures being reported on channels 4, 5, 7, 9, 11 and 13 from respectable distances.
  • We'll take care of PENNSYLVANIA next, beginning in Erie, where the new Fairview-licensed 93.9 signal is reported on the air as of today (noon on Monday, 10/15, to be exact), running active rock as WRPL, "the Planet."
  • While Nextmedia turns on that new signal, it's transferred its 102.3 license (currently WLKK) to Regent, which began stunting this afternoon with a rotating roster of 24 different formats. The real format will premiere on 10/23 (get it?), with new calls reportedly on the way as well. WLKK PD Tim Stephens is out as well with the demise of "the Point" there.

New England Radio Watch, October 16, 1996

  • After more than two years of promises, the Kidstar children's radio format makes its debut in Boston on Thursday, October 17, on WROR (1150 AM). The leased-time ethnic programming on WROR ended sometime Monday, and 1150 was mostly silent for much of Monday night and Tuesday, allowing Bostonians a rare chance to listen to the surprisingly good big-band format on WVNJ (1160) from Bergen County, NJ. As I write this, 1150 has returned to the air with a ticking-clock sound effect and a promotional loop that runs roughly every 20 minutes advertising Kidstar (and, unsurprisingly, no legal ID). The official kickoff of Kidstar in Boston will take place at 11:50 am on Thursday, with a celebration at Boston's Computer Museum downtown. The on-air promos on 1150 are urging kids to attend, which seems odd, given that Thursday is a school day.
  • Picking up the leased-time ethnic slack is Douglas Broadcasting's WBPS (890 Dedham-Boston), which has lost most of the sports shows that were leasing the daytime hours, and which is now running Spanish-language programming from 9 am until 3 pm, and a variety of other languages in the evening.
  • Skowhegan, Maine's WHQO (107.9 FM) has shed its smooth-jazz/AC format ("The Light at the End of the Dial") in favor of a simulcast of all-sports WSKW (1160 AM, "The Score"). The format change accompanies an LMA of WHQO from Harvey Broadcasting to Mountain Wireless, which owns WSKW, album-rock WTOS (105.1), and AC WCTB (93.5 Fairfield ME). It gets the Score a much better signal in the Augusta-Waterville area, especially at night, when the 1160 signal is nearly inaudible with only 730 watts (as opposed to 10kw daytime).

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*It's here! As seen in the St. Paul Pioneer Press, 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.