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April 30, 2007

WJIB's Bittner Hits the Goal


*An unusual radio fundraising campaign in MASSACHUSETTS has wrapped up with an early declaration of success.

As we've amply chronicled over the years, WJIB (740 Cambridge) is a most unusual commercial station, operated as a one-man venture by owner Bob Bittner, who's run the station for the last decade and a half with no commercial spots at all, just some leased-time programming and a lot of standards, soft AC, oldies and good old-fashioned "beautiful music."

Two financial blows to WJIB almost put that operation in jeopardy this spring: first, the loss of Radio France International's contract to lease two hours of morning drive, and second, WJIB's ratings spike that put it in danger of owing a much larger ASCAP/BMI bill than it's enjoyed over the years with ratings below 1.0.

So Bob decided to ask his audience for their support. Six weeks ago, he began airing occasional messages gently asking for voluntary donations to keep WJIB going past his self-imposed June 30 deadline.

It turns out, as Bob put it in his on-air announcements last Wednesday, that June 30th came early - and that he's already made his $88,000 goal after just six weeks of occasional on-air fundraising announcements.

"I am impressed with your generosity, and your deep commitment to keep WJIB playing this great music that we're known for," Bittner said in his announcement. "And I feel really good too; that all of my work over the years selecting and putting this music together has been validated."

Bittner says the over 2,400 contributions he received - not tax-deductible, by the way - ranged from $5 to two $1,000 checks, and that not a single check bounced. (Two, however, sent in checks made out to "WGBH"!)

And he says his experience proves that "a smaller commercially-licensed station has another alternative than to scratch for limited advertising dollars," providing another possible path for niche music formats like his to succeed.

You can have your ad here! Click here for information on the most economical way to reach tens of thousands of Northeast radio and TV people each week.

*In Worcester, WTAG (580) morning host Hank Stolz left the Clear Channel station last week, just after celebrating his tenth anniversary there on Monday, but he's not disappearing from central Massachusetts morning radio.

On Wednesday, competing talker WCRN (830) announced that it's hired Stolz as its new mid-morning talk host. He'll debut there today with "The Hank Stolz Experience," to be heard weekdays from 9 AM-noon, immediately following WCRN's Peter Blute morning show. Stolz's show replaces the leased-time "Money Matters" show in that slot, and it gives WCRN a live-and-local lineup all morning long.

Meanwhile at WTAG, Stolz's co-host Sherman Whitman continues in morning drive.

In Springfield, the Falcons AHL hockey team is moving next season from Clear Channel's WNNZ (640 Westfield), which is now leased out to public broadcaster WFCR (88.5 Amherst), to sister station WHYN (560 Springfield). All 80 of the team's games will air on WHYN.

*A VERMONT commercial station is helping Plattsburgh's WCFE-TV (Channel 57) get a signal back on the air after the collapse of its tower on Lyon Mountain April 18. WCAX-TV (Channel 3) in Burlington announced Tuesday that it's allowing "Mountain Lake PBS" to broadcast over one of the subchannels of WCAX-DT (Channel 53) until WCFE can rebuild its own tower later this summer. The WCFE subchannel will apparently appear as "57.1" on DTV tuners, and more importantly, will resume the feed of WCFE's signal to cable companies in Vermont, Quebec and northeastern New York. WCAX quickly rounded up some loaned microwave equipment to get the WCFE signal across the lake to its transmitter on Mount Mansfield. (And when you look up the definition of "broadcasting in the public interest," that should be a WCAX logo you see...)

WCFE is also getting some help from its Plattsburgh neighbor, Hearst-Argyle's WPTZ (Channel 5), which donated video streaming to help WCFE get its big "Arts Auction" out to as many viewers as possible.

Congratulations to WCAX news director/evening anchor Marselis Parsons, by the way, for marking his 40th anniversary at the station last week. How many other 40-year veterans of a single TV station are there on the air across NERW-land today? Don Alhart at WHAM-TV in Rochester will hit that mark later this year...anyone else?

Congratulations, also, to Equity Broadcasting's W61CE in Rutland, which became the stuff of message-board legend over the winter when it lost its satellite feed from the Equity mothership in Arkansas. After broadcasting an "ALARM MODE" screen since at least early November, we're told it finally got My Network programming (from WGMU-CA in Burlington) back on the air last Monday.

*In NEW HAMPSHIRE's capital city, 35-year veteran WKXL (1450 Concord) talk host Gardner Hill has departed the station, where he hosted "Coffee Chat" and "Your Health Matters." Hill was the last of the station's on-air staff remaining from the days of previous owner Warren Bailey, who sold WKXL to Gordon Humphrey in 2004.

*Two RHODE ISLAND college radio DJs are off the air after staging what they called a "discussion" of the Don Imus controversy. Roger Williams University officials say all that Dana Peloso and Jon Porter were doing on their WQRI (88.3 Bristol) show was repeating Imus' unfortunate phrase over and over for shock value. PD Mike Martelli tells Providence's WJAR-TV that he'd warned all the station's jocks to steer clear of using the phrase on the air. Peloso and Porter are now off the air at WQRI, where they'd hosted a Tuesday-morning talk show, and are (unsurprisingly) milking the incident for maximum publicity value, making lots of noise about censorship in what appears to be more of a typical management-"talent" dispute about following rules.

Meanwhile in the world of commercial radio, WHJJ (920 Providence) has tapped the Pittsburgh-based syndicated "Quinn and Rose" as its replacement for Don Imus; they'd been airing in the 9-noon slot, which will now be filled by Glenn Beck.

MANDATORY SUBSCRIPTION FEES? They've become a fact of life for many of the most popular radio and TV websites out there. Just a few weeks ago, our pal Dave Hughes put part of his excellent site behind a pay wall, and mandatory subscriptions are an established way of life at and, too, just to name a few.

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 2007, 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!

*This week's NEW YORK entry in the "Don Imus Replacement" contest? It's NFL star Boomer Esiason, who'll fill morning drive on WFAN (660 New York) all week this week, allowing Mike and the Mad Dog to begin to go back to focusing on their regular afternoon slot. (Though not entirely - Chris "Mad Dog" Russo will be co-hosting mornings with Esiason for at least today, as well as afternoons with Mike Francesa.)

Meanwhile, sister station WFNY-FM (92.3 Free FM) is dealing with a controversy of its own: mid-morning jocks JV and Elvis are suspended after the Organization of Chinese Americans took offense to a segment in which they called Chinese restaurants and...well, suffice it to say the Organization of Chinese Americans took offense, and there's no word yet on when JV and Elvis will be back on the air. The OCA also had words last week with Clear Channel's WWPR (Power 105.1) over a contest called "Are You Smarter Than An Asian?"

The "other" WFNY - the AM station on 1440 in Gloversville, west of Albany - is celebrating its power increase. The oldies station cranked up its power from 800 watts (directional) to 3.6 kW non-directional last week, and is reportedly now being heard as far east as the Capital District.

A late-night institution in New York City has retired. Nimet Habachy hosted "New York at Night" during the overnight hours from 1980 until last Friday, when she retired from WQXR (96.3 New York). No replacement has been named yet.

New York's WNYC-FM (93.9) signed on a new Long Island translator late last week. The construction permit for W228BI (93.5 Smithtown) was to have expired Saturday, just a day after the translator turned on from a cell tower just east of Smithtown, in western Suffolk County. The 55-watt translator was off the air again over the weekend, but we hear it did a number on Long Island reception of WVIP (93.5 New Rochelle) while it was on the air.

There's a new music director/afternoon jock on the way to WBWZ (93.3 New Paltz): Chris Chase is headed east from WMDH (102.5 New Castle/Muncie IN), where he was doing afternoons.

*A central PENNSYLVANIA morning team is taking on a challenging assignment in northern California. "The Morning Mess" crew - Jason Barsky, Kelly and Gavin - will leave WHKF (99.3 Harrisburg) for a new gig at KDND (107.9 Sacramento) beginning May 14. That's the station that achieved national infamy for its "Hold Your Wee for a Wii" promotion a few months back, in which a contestant died, and it's been without a full-time morning show since firing its "Morning Rave" staff in the wake of that contest. Mike Miller returns to WHKF as host of "The New Morning Mess"; he'd been at KKRZ (100.3 Portland OR) as PM jock/APD.

Up the road in Gap (near Lancaster), that LPFM on 92.9 that keeps changing calls has done it again. The former WOMB-LP, WGCP-LP, WOMB-LP, WLDW-LP, WOBS-LP, WGPQ-LP, WLBX-LP, WOBS-LP, WLRI-LP, WLIZ-LP, WTPP-LP, WOMB-LP, WPAG-LP and WLIZ-LP is now...WLAL-LP, making fifteen call changes in less than four years. Anyone know what the story is here? (We found a web site for the WLIZ-LP incarnation, which was apparently "92.9 Liz FM" for the brief period it held those calls...)

Speaking of call changes, WBXQ (94.7 Cresson/Altoona) and WBRX (94.3 Patton) briefly filed to swap calls, which would have restored the WBXQ calls to the original 94.3 dial position they had, and puts WBRX back on 94.7 - but back then, 94.3 was the Cresson frequency and 94.7 was the Patton frequency. The call swap was apparently filed in error, as it disappeared the next day from the FCC database, leaving WBXQ on 94.7 and WBRX on 94.3.

In the Pittsburgh market, WKHB (620 Irwin) has shifted formats on the music it plays when it's not in leased-time mode, segueing from 60s-70s oldies to a "variety hits"-type format. OM/PD Clarke Ingram continues with his Saturday afternoon oldies show, and the station's other weekend oldies and polka shows continue as well.

In Erie, Fred Horton exits as PD/morning man at WXTA (97.9 Edinboro) - and yes, that's the same "Uncle Fred" we remember from his days at WBEE-FM (92.5) here in Rochester.

And in Gettysburg, WGTY (107.7) PD Brad Austin departed Friday; he's headed to Madison, Wisconsin to become PD at WWQM (106.3).

*In NEW JERSEY, we're sorry to report the death last Sunday (Apr. 22) of Bernard Spigner, whose career included talk hosting at WCTC (1450 New Brunswick), as well as stints with Shadow Traffic, the New Jersey Nets, the Meadowlands Sports Complex and a run as GM of WALK (1370 Patchogue). Spigner had been battling cancer; he was just 51, and leaves behind wife Deborah and a two year old son, Robbie.

The David Sarnoff Library in Princeton took a pounding from the nor'easter that hit the region April 15. The storm deposited 20 inches of water in the building's sub-basement, soaking 600 cubic feet of boxes that contained records from the RCA Labs dating from World War II to 1960, including notebooks documenting the development of the company's early television cameras and satellite communications.

The library's insurance doesn't cover the estimated $60,000 cost of drying and restoring the documents, work that's now underway at Document Reprocessors in Middlesex, New York (just down the road from NERW's Rochester headquarters), and the library is looking for donations to help pay for the restoration work. NERW has already made a contribution toward the effort, and you can join us.

Contributions can be made with PayPal at or by mail to the David Sarnoff Library, 201 Washington Road, CN 5300, Princeton NJ 08543-5300. (And do mention that you read about it in NERW...)

*In CANADA, the CRTC has granted another new ethnic expanded-band AM in the Toronto market. Neeti P. Ray gets 1000 watts on 1650 in Mississauga, for a station aimed at audiences from the Indian subcontinent, with programming primarily in the Urdu and Hindustani languages. A competing application from S.S. TV Inc. was denied.

On the TV side of things, CanWest Global is getting ready once again to rebrand its "CH" network of local stations - and it's picking up a brand from a US-based cable network. Starting September 1, those stations, including CHCH (Channel 11) in Hamilton and CJNT (Channel 62) in Montreal, will be rebranded as "E!"

The stations will keep their current prime-time lineups of (mostly US) network programming, adding E! content during the day and later at night, and they'll go back to using their call letters for local news, except for CJNT, which doesn't do news.

On the radio side of things, it's not an all-out AM-to-FM move (and can't be, since Blackburn Radio already has two FMs in the market), but CHOK (1070 Sarnia) is asking the CRTC for permission to add a low-power FM simulcast to better reach listeners in Sarnia. CHOK initially asked the CRTC for 875 watts/54 meters on 103.3, saying that the "metal and steel" of Sarnia's big petrochemical plants, along with interference from "computer monitors and electrical equipment" all but obliterate its AM signal. CHOK reworked the request last week to avoid a conflict with Points Eagle Broadcasting's application for a native station in Sarnia; it's now asking for 615 watts/143 meters on 100.9, instead.

In Tillsonburg, construction is now underway on a new taller tower for CKOT-FM (101.3) and its new sister station on 107.3. CKOT-FM has a pending application to go from 50 kW to 26 kW and to raise its antenna to 205.6 meters above average terrain from the new tower.

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!)

May 1, 2006 -

  • Greater Media has just announced that it's out of the running for the Red Sox rights in 2007. "The deal didn’t make economic sense for the company," says Greater Media president/CEO Peter Smyth.
  • Today's the day new programming launches at WESX (1230 Salem), as the station's new owners-to-be take control from the Asher family, which has owned the station since the fifties. Last Friday, fans of the little local station honored longtime personalities Al Needham and Betty Stavis at a ceremony at Salem City Hall that drew about 150 people. Under its new ownership, WESX will replace local programming with a format that's expected to be primarily foreign-language religious programming. That format will arrive at sister station WJDA (1300 Quincy) soon, too, though it appears the local programming on WJDA will be around for at least a few more weeks.
  • On the FM dial, WBCN (104.1 Boston) has named a new afternoon team. "Toucher and Rich" come to Boston from Atlanta (where Fred Toucher was on modern rocker WNNX) and Dallas (where Rich Shertenlieb was a producer of the syndicated "Kidd Kraddick" morning show), and their arrival moves Hardy from afternoons to evenings and Mark Hamilton from evenings to overnights.
  • One of VERMONT's locally-owned radio voices is being sold, but all within the station family. Tri-State Broadcasters, which has owned WTSA (1450 Brattleboro) and WTSA-FM (96.7 Brattleboro) since 1985, is selling the stations to William and Kelli Corbeil. William Corbeil began his broadcast career as an intern at WTSA and later worked at WIZN in Burlington before returning to his family's auto dealerships. Corbeil says WTSA's staff (including WTSA-FM morning host John "Clarke" Kilduff, one of the station's current owners) will remain unchanged, and that no changes are planned to the AM's sports programming or the FM's adult contemporary format.
  • The battle over that controversial WFUV (90.7 New York) tower in the Bronx ended with a whimper early last week. Now that WFUV is on the air from its new site at Montefiore Hospital, Fordham University officials acted without any publicity at all to take down the never-completed tower that stood on the edge of the Fordham campus, overlooking the New York Botanical Garden. It's always nice when these things end happily, and all sides are now satisfied - the Garden has its view back (not that we ever found the tower all that ugly!), and WFUV has a better signal from the Montefiore site than it ever would have had from the Fordham tower, had it been completed.

April 22, 2002 -

  • A posting on Allan Sniffen's NY Radio Message Board reports WVIP (1310 Mount Kisco) has begun simulcasting the Spanish-language religion of WWRV (1330 New York); we've also heard that WVIP sister station WGCH (1490 Greenwich CT) has been off the air, but it's not clear whether that's related to WGCH's tower dispute (NERW, 4/17).
  • Heading up towards Albany, the state capital's newest radio station made its debut late last week in stunt mode. Newly moved up the dial (from 93.5) and down I-87 (from Corinth/Glens Falls), WHTR (93.7 Scotia) started out with a loop of "Anarchy in the U.K.," followed by a weekend of simulcasting owner Ed Levine's "K-Rock" (WKLL 94.9 Frankfort-Utica), before launching into a hot talk format Monday afternoon. As rumored, former WPYX (106.5) morning guy Bob Mulrooney is doing mornings on 93.7; other additions to the schedule include Opie and Anthony in afternoons, Tom Leykis in the evening and Lovelines at night. Much more on this new signal when we return in mid-May...
  • PENNSYLVANIA has a new radio station this week; WVIA (89.9 Scranton) applied for a license to cover for its new relay in Williamsport. WVYA (89.7) replaces the old WVIA translator there, which had been on 89.3.
  • Harrisburg's "Cat" finally has calls to match; WRKZ (106.7 Hershey) changed its calls to WCAT-FM late last week (though simulcast WHYL-FM 102.3 in Carlisle stays the same). The calls, helpfully enough, already belonged to owner Citadel; they'd been on 99.9 FM in Athol, Mass. for more than a decade. That station, which runs oldies, became WAHL(FM).

May 1, 1997-

  • We'll begin in NEW HAMPSHIRE this time around, where there's much more to report about religious broadcaster Brian Dodge and his media empire of sorts. Last week we told you that his WWNH (1340 Madbury NH) is operating without benefit of valid FCC license, and now it seems New Hampshire's Attorney General's office is looking into the finances of his "We Trust in Jesus Broadcasting." State officials tell the Nashua Telegraph that the charity made a loan to Dodge last year, in violation of a new state law which bars charities from making loans to their directors or officers. Dodge has also reportedly failed to file annual reports for 1995 or 1996, and he's due to appear at a closed-door hearing of the Division of Charitable Trusts on May 20. Dodge is claiming his charity is actually a church, which would exempt it from the reporting requirements. State officials disagree. Stay tuned...
  • More from VERMONT: The rumors are flying around WVMX (101.7 Stowe) this week. Late word is that the classic rocker may soon be reborn as a classical music outlet under the calls WCVT. The 101.7 signal comes from the top of Mount Mansfield, overlooking the Burlington area as well as the Stowe area.
  • A minor format change to tell you about in MASSACHUSETTS this week, as American Radio Systems tweaks the format on WEGQ (93.7 Lawrence-Boston), the former 70s rocker. The "Eagle" is adding music of the early 1980s, and touting itself as the "Greatest Hits of the 70s and 80s." Sister station WZMX (93.7) Hartford is still playing 70s rock, but now calling itself "Classic Hits 93.7".
  • There's a new signal on the air in upstate NEW YORK. Just hours after the last NERW went online, WCGR in Canandaigua turned on its new 1310 kHz fulltime signal. The directional signal blasts in towards Rochester, especially by day. WCGR is still simulcasting on the old daytime-only 1550 facility, but that's expected to be turned off shortly. Just down the road in Geneva, WEOS (89.7) has turned on its new transmitter, providing much-improved coverage to the areas east of Geneva.
  • Downstate, the FCC is cracking down on WJUX (99.7 Monticello), which has spent its entire broadcast career as the nominal primary for translator W276AQ Fort Lee NJ. The FCC has ordered a hearing into whether W276AQ's owner, Gerry Turro, also exercised control over WJUX and whether the licenses of WJUX, W276AQ, and Turro's translator W232AL Pomona NY (the relay point between WJUX and W276AQ) should be pulled. In listening to WJUX over the last few years, it's quite obvious that the programming is targeted to W276AQ's Bergen County NJ listeners and not to WJUX's audience in the Catskills. This should be another good one to watch.

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*It's here! As seen in the St. Paul Pioneer Press, the Chicago Sun-Times, and soon on WCVB's "Chronicle," Tower Site Calendar 2007 is not only now shipping - it's close to a sellout! If you're waiting for the 2007 edition to go on clearance sale, don't keep waiting - the word from the shipping department is that only about 40 copies remain, and we expect to sell them all in the next few weeks.

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!

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 2007 by Scott Fybush.