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December 10, 2007

WFAS-FM Heads For The Big Apple


*When Cumulus' WFAS-FM (103.9 White Plains) filed to change city of license to Bronxville back in January, it wasn't hard to figure out what was coming next - a transmitter move that would make the class A signal into a NEW YORK broadcaster.

Here's what we said in NERW back on Feb. 5:

As a pre-1964 grandfathered station, WFAS-FM doesn't have to protect its second-adjacent neighbors on the Empire State Building, WKTU (103.5 Lake Success) and WAXQ (104.3 New York), but it does have to stay at least 15 km from WPAT-FM (93.1 Paterson NJ), which is also on Empire. That means it's likely to end up somewhere in the Bronx, where it will probably end up joining another move-in, Cox's WCTZ (96.7 Stamford CT, moving to Port Chester NY).

"Somewhere in the Bronx" turned out to be the tower atop a Montefiore Medical Center building that's already home to WFUV (90.7). Last week, WFAS-FM, which was granted the city-of-license change to Bronxville over the summer, applied to move its transmitter from its longtime site in Greenburgh to the WFUV tower (shown below in 2005), where it would operate with 980 watts at 532 feet above average terrain.

From that site, WFAS-FM would still have decent Westchester/Rockland/north Jersey coverage, but more to the point, it would blanket the Bronx and cover most of Manhattan, Queens and even part of Brooklyn with a 60 dBu (city-grade) signal.

What happens next? We speculated back in February that Cumulus, which does most of its business in suburban and medium-sized urban markets, was unlikely to keep WFAS-FM operating as a standalone AC station in the cluster-dominated cauldron of Market Number One, and last month's layoffs of a significant portion of WFAS-FM's airstaff would seem to bear out that theory.

Will WFAS-FM soon be up for sale as a New York City signal? And if so, who would be in line as buyers, at a price tag that's likely to be in the $50 million range? It's not hard to imagine the new 103.9 nicely complementing the Queens/Nassau rimshot of Univision's WQBU (92.7 Garden City), a signal for which Univision famously paid $60 million a few years ago. Then there's Citadel, whose two-station cluster (WABC/WPLJ) is far smaller than those of its New York competitors, CBS, Clear Channel and Emmis. Would Salem, which is spinning off some of its smaller markets to focus on bigger ones, want to add a "Fish" contemporary Christian FM to its two AMs (WMCA and WWDJ)? Would Arthur Liu's Multicultural group want an FM to go with its many AMs?

We'll be watching this one closely - not to mention another eventual Bronx move-in, Cox's relocation of WCTZ (96.7 Port Chester NY, ex-Stamford CT) closer to the big city.


Think the arrival of the new phone book is an exciting time of year? (We do, actually, with apologies to Steve Martin, but that's not the point.)

Here's a really exciting spot on the calendar - in fact, it is the calendar. Yes, the 2008 Tower Site Calendar is back from the printer and ready for shipping all over the US and beyond.

This year's edition is a particularly fine one, if we do say so ourselves. From the cover photo of KAST in Astoria, Oregon to the back cover shot of the Blaw-Knox diamond tower at WBNS in Columbus, this year's calendar features 14 all-new full-color shots of famous broadcast sites far and wide. There's KROQ in Los Angeles, KFBK in Sacramento, WESX in Salem, WGAN in Portland, Black Mountain in Vegas, Mount Spokane in Spokane, and many (ok, several) more.

If you've been following our adventures, you know that the 2006 and 2007 editions of the calendar sold out. If you've been following postal rates and the cost of printing, you know they've both gone up.

Even so, we still think this year's edition is a bargain - just $18 with shipping and handling included.

Or better yet, beat our move to mandatory subscriptions (also coming later this fall) and get a free calendar with your $60 subscription to NERW for 2008. (Remember, the proceeds from both the calendar and the subscriptions help keep NERW right here on the web, as we head into our fourteenth year of news and analysis.)

So click right here and you can be one of the first to have your very own Tower Site Calendar 2008! (And thank you!)

The 2008 Tower Site Calendar is dedicated to the memory of Robert Eiselen (1934-2007), whose digital imaging skills made even a bunch of pictures of radio towers look almost like art. His contributions were essential to the calendar's evolution from 2003 to the current edition, and he will be missed dearly.

*A much larger New York City signal has a new general manager. WOR (710) is promoting VP/sales director Jerry Crowley to replace the departing Bob Bruno, effective January 1. Crowley is a 13-year WOR veteran; his former post will be filled by Jennifer Buckley, who moves up from local sales manager.

Over at WINS (1010), they're mourning Larry Wachtel, whose business reports were heard on the station from 1972 until his retirement in 2005. Wachtel, who was 77, died Dec. 2 in Yonkers.

In Rockland County, it looks as though WRCR (1300 Spring Valley) was the only applicant in the unusual filing window designed specifically to allow that station to upgrade its signal. The window specified that applicants had to apply for a 10 kW day/1 kW night signal on 1700 in Rockland County, serving the evacuation zone of the Indian Point nuclear plant. WRCR's application for 1700 calls for Pomona as the community of license, using one tower of the WRKL (910 New City) array off US 202 as the transmitter site.

We've been remiss in not mentioning a new signal that's on the air in Orange County: Bud Williamson's W289BE (105.7 Middletown), which moved north from Warwick, where it had been W290BB on 105.9, is now on with a relay of New York's WCBS-FM (101.1), which must be good news for oldies fans up there on the fringes of the main CBS-FM signal.

If former Albany talk host J.R. Gach harbored any hope of returning to the market, that's probably gone, thanks to an expensive legal settlement. Athena Andrikopoulos, a waitress at a Rotterdam diner, sued Gach, his sidekick Shawn "Pi" Bolts and their former station, Galaxy's WRCZ (94.5 Ravena) over a February 2006 show in which they apparently poked fun at Andrikopoulos' severe burns. Though her name and the name of the diner were never mentioned, testimony during the suit showed that Bolts and Gach named the street where the diner is located, and reportedly threatened to post her picture on the station's website. The case made it to trial last week, but not to the jury; after Andrikopoulos testified on Wednesday, Galaxy settled the suit for $1 million.

"I deeply regret the entire situation," Galaxy CEO Ed Levine told the Albany Times Union. His company exited the market earlier this year; the former WRCZ is now an EMF Broadcasting "K-Love" affiliate. Neither Gach nor Bolts is currently on the air in Albany; Gach is now living in Florida, and Bolts is involved with a local webcast.

(One more Albany note: we're very sorry to hear that Andy Mackenzie has already begun taking down his North River Broadcast site, with only the forums section still available as we go to press Sunday night, and even those scheduled to shut down at month's end. It's never fun to see a useful broadcasting resource go away, and we hope that at least some of the historical information Andy collected can be preserved somewhere.)

In other upstate news: WEOS (89.7 Geneva) has calls for its new signal on 90.1 in Ithaca - that station will be WITH, taking a callsign with a long heritage in the Baltimore market. The new Ithaca signal is expected to be on the air within the next six months.

In Buffalo, they're mourning Bob Zdrojewski, known on air as "Bob MacRae" in a career that included PD stints at WGRQ, WZIR, as well as on-air work at WKBW, WBEN and WNYS. Zdrojewski had been living near Syracuse; he was 58 when he died there Dec. 4.

We told you last week about the flip to talk at what's now WQTK (92.7 Ogdensburg), and now we can add a name to the program schedule up there - "Talk 92.7" has picked up Don Imus' new show for morning drive. Despite reports that the station would be an Air America affiliate, the rest of the day hews to the other side of the political spectrum, carried over from sister station WSLB (1400 Ogdensburg) after its flip to sports: Imus is followed by Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly and Michael Savage.

*There's a new Imus affiliate in NEW JERSEY as well: WTAA (1490 Pleasantville) added the Imus show to its Air America lineup last week, bringing the program to the Atlantic City market.

*A transmitter-site fire leads our PENNSYLVANIA news this week, as Harrisburg's WRVV (97.3), WHP-TV/DT (21/4) and WLYH-TV/DT (15/23) all recover from the blaze that knocked them off the air early Monday morning. The fire started in the corner of their shared building near the FM transmitter, completely destroying the FM station's equipment and severely damaging several of the TV stations' transmitters.

Clear Channel dispatched one of its emergency-recovery trucks, complete with frequency-agile transmitter, to get WRVV back on the air Monday afternoon. The TV stations were able to get back on the air soon afterward, thanks to some clever engineering (and the remarkable survival of a Microwave Radio STL receiver that continued working even though its entire front surface had melted away!)

Public broadcaster WITF (89.5)/WITF-TV/DT (33/36), which share the site, suffered some smoke damage to their transmitters in an adjoining room, but remained on the air.

A fixture on the Pittsburgh radio dial is without a station, thanks to a contract dispute. Renda's WPTT (1360 McKeesport) declined to renew Doug Hoerth's contract when it expired last week, taking Hoerth off the station where he'd worked since 1999. (His earlier stops included most of the rest of Pittsburgh's AM dial - KDKA, KQV, WTAE and WTKN, now WBGG.) Hoerth's 3-6 PM slot on WPTT will be filled by the syndicated Mike Gallagher show beginning today. He had also been hosting a weekend oldies show on Renda sister station WJAS (1320 Pittsburgh). is reporting the death of another Pittsburgh radio fixture. Sean Doherty was the longtime sports director at WDUQ (90.5), covering Duquesne University sports as well as doing play-by-play for cable broadcasts of several high school teams, all from the wheelchair to which he was confined because of a high school football accident that left him a quadriplegic. Doherty, who died Saturday, was 47.

Also in the Pittsburgh obituaries: Oleen Eagle, who was the first employee of what's now Cornerstone Television (WPCB-TV), died Dec. 2 at 77. Eagle served as Cornerstone's president from 1994-2003 and its CEO from 2000-2003, and was president emeritus of the religious broadcaster at the time of her death.

In the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton market, the Citadel cost-cutting continues: out the door at WBHT (97.1 Mountain Top) are PD Justin Bryant (formerly "KJ Bryant" in Binghamton and "Norm on the Barstool" here in Rochester) and morning co-host Jenn Starr, as well as her "A.J. and Jen" morning show. WBHT has picked up the syndicated Kidd Kraddick morning show, with A.J. taking the PD and midday reins from Bryant.

On the TV side of things, Philadelphia's WTXF (Fox 29) is looking for a new news director for the second time this year. Phil Metlin, who just came to the station six months ago, has departed the station for a post with co-owned WTTG (Channel 5) in Washington.

*In CONNECTICUT, Wayne Mulligan is stepping down at year's end as general manager of Buckley Radio's WDRC (1360/102.9 Hartford), where he's held that post since 1991. Mulligan came to WDRC in 1964 as an engineer, departing two years later to become an engineer at WTIC (1080). He returned to WDRC in 1972 as chief engineer, overseeing numerous expansions to the stations' facilities over the years. He'll be succeeded as GM by Eric Fahnoe, who's currently sales manager at the WDRC stations (as well as the nephew of CEO Rick Buckley.)

*In RHODE ISLAND, Clear Channel's made some cuts at two of its FM signals. Rocker WHJY (94.1 Providence) loses both music director/afternoon jock Mike Brangiforte and night duo Quinn and Cantara, who were also heard in New Hampshire at WGIR-FM (101.1 Manchester) and WHEB-FM (100.3 Portsmouth). Down the hall at WWBB (101.5 Providence), middayer Amy Hagan is out as well.

Over on the TV side of things, new WLNE (Channel 6) news director Stephen Doerr has made his first big hire - and new anchor Allison Alexander comes to the ABC affiliate right from Doerr's former shop, the tabloidy CBS affiliate WOIO (Channel 19) in Cleveland. (Much more on this over at our companion site to the west, Ohio Media Watch...)

*In MASSACHUSETTS, Principle Broadcasting is trying again to move WESX (1230 Salem) from its longtime (and very valuable) site in Marblehead to a location much closer to Boston. Back in March, Principle applied to change WESX's city of license to Saugus, relocating the transmitter to the tower of WLYN (1360 Lynn) and requesting a waiver because the new site wouldn't provide full coverage of the new community.

In early November, the FCC let Principle know that it wouldn't grant the waiver, giving WESX an opportunity to amend its application to fix the problem. Now the station has done so, changing its proposal to specify Nahant as the new city of license. This time, no waiver is required, as WESX would cover Nahant fully by day, and would cover 89.1% of the town with a nighttime interference-free signal.

As Tom Finneran's "Finneran's Forum" continues to struggle for listeners on Entercom's WRKO (680 Boston), the show's being retooled to include many more voices in addition to the ex-House speaker. New additions to the lineup include a Monday "Boston Globe Report" segment featuring a rotating roster of Globe columnists, a Wednesday campaign trail update from CNN's Major Garrett and a Thursday co-host from 8-10 AM, legal expert Wendy Murphy.

Across the talk divide, Greater Media's WTKK (96.9 Boston) is shifting weekender (and regular fill-in host) Michele McPhee to a new role. She's leaving the Herald in January to take over WTKK 's 7-10 PM slot, replacing Bill O'Reilly's syndicated show. Meanwhile, WTKK afternoon host Jay Severin is joining the Herald as an op-ed columnist.

When your editor thinks of "WBZ" and "restaurant," the first thought that comes to mind is the old greasy sandwich stand on the second floor of the Soldiers Field Road studios, before they were renovated in the mid-nineties. But WBZ and CBS have something much bigger in mind now: they've started construction on a "CBS Scene" theme restaurant in Foxboro. The new restaurant, which will open next year, will be part of the big "Patriot Place" development next to the stadium there, and will include a gift shop and facilities for live WBZ broadcasts.

Hearty congratulations to Ed and Carol Perry and the entire staff at WATD (95.9 Marshfield) - their magnificent community station celebrated its 30th anniversary last week, still locally owned, still locally operated, and still doing all the things good radio stations should be doing. (More on that in a couple of weeks, when we get to our Year-End Rant.)

If you missed WATD's 30th anniversary special, as we did, never fear: you can download it right at the WATD website!

There's a new news director at Carter Broadcasting's WCRN (830 Worcester), as Alec Callender moves over from the newsroom at Clear Channel's WTAG (580 Worcester).

Out west, Rob Anthony has been named PD at WMAS-FM (94.7 Springfield), replacing the departed Paul "Boom" Cannon. Anthony had been serving as assistant PD, as well as music director and afternoon jock. WMAS morning man Chris Kellogg adds the music director title.

And we're very sorry to report the death on Thursday (Dec. 6) of Fred B. Cole, one of the last living links to Boston radio in the pre-World War II era. Cole worked for WBZ and WNAC before joining WHDH in 1946, where he spent 21 years playing big-band tunes. Cole was inducted into the Massachusetts Broadcasters Hall of Fame earlier this year. Cole, who lived his entire life in Hingham, was 92; he's survived by wife Betsey and a large family.

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.

*Here's some good news from MAINE: veteran Portland morning man Bud Sawyer is returning to the air soon, via low-power WJZF-LP (97.1 Standish). Sawyer, last heard on Portland's WLOB (1310) but best remembered for his long stints with WPOR and WGAN, will be heard 7-10 AM weekdays, broadcasting from his home overlooking the Atlantic Ocean in Falmouth.

WJZF is as good a place as any to begin the next installment of our plunge into the sea of applications from the 2007 Non-Comm FM Window, inasmuch as the Standish Citizens Educational Organization, licensee of the LPFM, has applied for a full-power signal, with 9.7 kW on 88.1. That application ended up MX'd to two other 88.1 applications - a 50 kW in Bowdoin from Light of Life Ministries, one of nine Maine applications from that religious broadcaster, and a 1 kW application in Hallowell from the University of Maine - as well as to an 88.3 in Kennebunkport (New Life Media) and to several New Hampshire applicants.

In addition to Light of Life's 9 applications, at least 17 others among the 45 Maine applications were from religious broadcasters. Calvary Chapel of Portland applied for 88.5 Westbrook and 89.7 Freeport, with the Westbrook application being one of four to make the FCC's "singleton" list.

The other Maine singletons are Light of Life's 88.1 Pittston Farm and the University of Maine's 91.5 Farmington and 91.7 Machias applications.

A few others worth noting: the Appalachian Performing Arts Institute, based in Tennessee, applied for 88.1 Presque Isle and 90.5 Kittery, while another Tennessee-based applicant using the same consulting engineer, the Appalachian Educational Communication Corp., applied for 90.7 in Livermore Falls and Wilton.

*Our look at the non-comm window next turns to NEW HAMPSHIRE, where 48 applications were filed, yielding just two singletons: the Wentworth Baptist Church will get 90.7 in Plymouth, while New Hampshire Public Radio will upgrade its existing Colebrook translator to a 125-watt "full-power" signal on 90.3.

NHPR filed for four other new signals as well: 91.9 Littleton, 88.3 Laconia, 89.9 Peterborough and 91.5 Claremont. The Peterborough application has an especially interesting MX issue: among the dozen applications tangled in that MX mess is one for 89.9 in West Swanzey from Albany, New York public broadcaster WAMC, which is ranging pretty far beyond its home base in this window. Also in that MX group is an 89.9 Keene application from the Vinikoor Family Foundation, one of four from that nonprofit that's tied to Bob Vinikoor, owner of several commercial signals in the Upper Valley.

Another major player in the Granite State is the Granite State Educational Fellowship. The religious broadcaster applied for seven signals in New Hampshire (including, yes, 89.9 in Keene) and one in Maine. Another religious broadcaster, Green Mountain Educational Fellowship, applied for an upgrade to its existing WVFA (90.5 Lebanon), which would go from 7 watts to 80 watts.

There was also some cross-border action from Boston's WUMB, which applied for 88.7 in Milford.

*We'll wrap up our non-comm window summary for this week in VERMONT, where Vermont Public Radio, still working to flesh out its new all-classical network, was one of just a handful of public broadcasters nationwide to file the full 10 applications permitted under this window's cap: 88.9 Brattleboro, 91.1 Manchester, 88.9 Montpelier, 90.9 Newbury, 89.3 St. Johnsbury, 90.5 Vergennes, 89.3 Waterbury and three Middlebury applications on 88.3, 89.1 and 90.1. (That's out of a total of 34 Vermont apps submitted in the window, by the way - plus one for "Emporia, Vermont" that's clearly a typo for Virginia.)

The Vergennes application bangs up against one of several cross-border public radio applications, as St. Lawrence University (WSLU Canton NY) applied for 90.3 there. Down the dial, the 89.1 Middlebury application is MX'd to a WAMC application for 89.1 in Vergennes - which is itself MX'd to about ten other applications surrounding Burlington on the 89.1 and 89.3 frequencies.

Among those is a fascinating application from the Champlain Music Appreciation Society, which operates WMUD-LP (89.3 Moriah NY) just across Lake Champlain, and which is hoping not only to avoid having that LPFM crushed by a new full-power signal, but to significantly improve its reach. It applied for a 51 kW signal licensed to Middlebury on 89.1, transmitting from across the lake in New York state.

(Other players in that big MX group include Bangor Baptist Church from Maine, which also had several apps in New Hampshire and Maine, as well as several other religious broadcasters.)

The window also saw an existing Vermont noncomm file for an upgrade: Johnson State College's WJSC (90.7) applied to move to 89.1, increasing power from 200 watts to 1 kW, but landing in that big MX mess.

And Goddard College (which owns WGDR 91.1 in Plainfield) landed the lone "singleton" in the state; it'll add a signal on 91.7 up north in Hardwick.

We'll wrap up the noncom window in southern New England next week.

*One of the smallest radio stations in CANADA is about to get bigger. Just west of Kingston, Ontario, Amherst Island Community Radio has won CRTC permission to boost the power of CJAI, Stella (92.1) from 5 watts to 250 watts.

Way up north in Timmins, the CRTC has rejected an application from the Ernest Turcotte Evangelical Association for a new religious station on 100.7; east of there, in Amos, Quebec, Radio Boreale has been granted a new community station on 105.3, with 5.4 kilowatts.

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!)

December 11, 2006 -

  • Progressive talk will soon be history, it seems, in eastern MASSACHUSETTS, as Clear Channel's continued corporate retreat from the format brings a format change at WKOX (1200 Framingham) and WXKS (1430 Everett), which have struggled to find an audience since flipping from leased-time Spanish (on WKOX) and standards (on WXKS) in October 2004. Almost from the first day of the new format, rumors began flying about its possible demise. In the last few weeks, as Air America's financial struggles worsened and other progressive talkers slipped away from the format, the rumors began getting louder. Then, last week, Brian Maloney's "Radio Equalizer" blog spotted a Clear Channel help-wanted ad for salespeople for the new "Rumba 1200/1430," and while the company still hasn't officially confirmed the move, it's becoming clearer that the progressive talk format will be replaced by Spanish tropical music within the next few weeks.
  • Much has been written, here and on the message boards, about the challenges WKOX/WXKS faced in finding an audience, most notably a pair of night signals that served only listeners in the MetroWest and north suburban areas, completely missing Boston, Cambridge and much of the rest of the market. Unlike some of the more successful progressive talkers around the country (most notably two other Clear Channel signals, KLSD San Diego and KPOJ Portland, Oregon), WKOX/WXKS never added any local personalities to the national lineup of Air America and other syndicated hosts it carried. In a market so intensely focused on its local politics, many interpreted the lack of local presence as a sign that Clear Channel wasn't committed to the format in Boston over the long term.
  • In the end, though, local factors may not have determined the demise of progressive talk on WKOX and WXKS. Instead, it was a national trend within the company, which is in the process of pulling the format off the air in markets from Madison, Wisconsin to Cincinnati to - rumor has it, at least - Los Angeles. With questions arising about the future of Air America as a 24-hour programming network, it's understandable that broadcasters looking for a turnkey syndicated product are getting uneasy about sticking with progressive talk, and we should note that Clear Channel's hardly alone in that respect, with companies such as Citadel (in Binghamton) and Entercom (in New Orleans) also dropping the format in recent weeks.
  • There's a changing of the guard at the helm of Boston's biggest public broadcaster. After 36 years with WGBH, the last 22 of them as the station's president, Henry Becton announced last week that he's stepping down next fall. Becton, who oversaw a huge expansion of WGBH's local and national production efforts, culminating in the station's impending move to a new studio facility overlooking the Mass Pike in Allston, says he'll remain with the station in an advisory role. Effective October 1, 2007, he'll be replaced by executive VP/COO Jon Abbott as WGBH president.
  • On the western edge of PENNSYLVANIA - literally on the state line, in the case of one transmitter site - there's a format change to report at WLOA (1470 Farrell) and WGRP (940 Greenville). They've dropped their simulcast with Youngstown-market oldies signal WANR (1570 Warren) and are now running sports from Sporting News Radio.
  • A call change across the state: in the Scranton market, WPGP (88.3 Tafton) becomes WLKA as it joins EMF Broadcasting's national "K-Love" contemporary Christian network.
  • Syracuse isn't usually in the vanguard where new formats are concerned, but it gets the distinction of being the first market in NERW-land to get a "Movin" outlet, the Alan Burns-consulted rhythmic AC format that gained early toeholds in Seattle and Los Angeles. The newest "Movin" is Craig Fox's trio of FM signals in the Salt City - WOLF-FM (96.7 Oswego), WWLF-FM (100.3 Sylvan Beach) and W243AB (96.5 Westvale), which made the flip from Radio Disney on Thursday. Radio Disney continues on the air in Syracuse on WOLF (1490), WWLF (1340 Auburn) and WAMF (1300 Fulton).

December 9, 2002 -

  • The man who defined morning radio in CONNECTICUT for fifty years died last Friday (Dec. 6), ending a radio career that spanned seven decades at just one station. Bob Steele came to WTIC in Hartford in 1936, as a junior announcer fresh from the motorcycle-racing circuit, where he had announced the races at a local arena (and, earlier, on KGFJ in Los Angeles.) The Missouri native was hired on a probationary basis and urged to work on his accent. Within a few months, Steele was announcing sports broadcasts on WTIC -- and in 1943, he took over the "Morning Watch" show.
  • Before long, "Morning Watch" became the Bob Steele Show, and Steele became a WTIC institution, waking up generations of Nutmeggers with the "Word for the Day," birthday announcements, and general good humor until his retirement from daily broadcasting in 1991. And even then -- at the age of 80 -- Bob Steele was far from finished at WTIC, moving to a Saturday-morning slot that eventually became a monthly feature on the station. In recent years, Steele was on the air only from May until November, but still proudly claimed his title as the longest-running regular program host in New England, and probably the entire country. When he turned 90 last year, Steele was quoted as saying he might consider retiring "when I turn 100."
  • Sadly, he won't get that chance; Steele died in his sleep sometime Friday morning, a month or so after what turned out to be his last WTIC broadcast. It was a run that's unlikely to ever be equalled, from a man who'll be widely remembered as one of the class acts in this business, and he'll be missed. (WTIC did a special four-hour broadcast Sunday morning to remember Steele; we hear the station even cut carrier for 15 seconds at the end of the show in Steele's memory.)
  • Back up here in Rochester, Entercom will hold an official ribbon-cutting Wednesday (Dec. 11) for its new "High Falls Studios" radio complex, home to WBEE-FM (92.5), WBBF (93.3 Fairport), WBZA (98.9) and WROC (950). We had a chance to see this nifty new facility a couple of weeks ago, and it's far and away the nicest commercial radio plant in town, complete with historic brick-vaulted ceilings and a wonderful location in the heart of the city's entertainment district.
  • From Buffalo comes word of the death on Dec. 1 of Les Arries, the longtime general manager of channel 4, where he started as general manager in 1967 (when it was WBEN-TV) and left in 1989 (when it had become WIVB-TV). Arries began his broadcast career at the old DuMont Network in 1946 and was later instrumental in creating the syndicated Merv Griffin Show while working for Westinghouse in the sixties. Arries died of brain cancer at his home in Sarasota, Florida; he was 77.

December 11, 1997-

  • It's been several years in the making, but WKOX (1200) in Framingham, MASSACHUSETTS finally holds a construction permit to go 50 kilowatts by day. The FCC this week reversed a decision rejecting WKOX's application for the higher power from the WNTN (1550) tower on Rumford Avenue in Newton, a site erroneously identified as "River Street" in the application. We'll be interested to see whether WKOX and owner Fairbanks Broadcasting are actually able to build on the site; we'd heard last year that WNTN was leery about allowing WKOX to diplex off its tower.
  • WKOX also holds a CP for 50 kilowatts day and night from its current site on Mount Wayte Avenue in Framingham; that application has long been stymied, though, by local officials' refusal to allow WKOX to tear down its two tall lit towers and replace them with three shorter unlit ones (no, NERW doesn't quite get it either...) WKOX was also trying to get permission from Sudbury town officials to build a three tower array along route 30 in that town, but that project appears to have stalled out.
  • Elswehere in the Bay State, Boston's WNFT (1150), the oft-forgotten stepsister in the CBS/ARS group, was doing some simulcast-hopping this week. WNFT was heard with sister hot AC station WBMX (98.5) last Friday, returning to its usual simulcast of WAAF (107.3 Worcester) for a few days only to switch again for a little while, this time to CHurban WJMN (94.5) -- which, oddly enough, is NOT a CBS/ARS station. An accident at the WNFT broadcast facility? Only the engineers know for sure.
  • On to CONNECTICUT, where the revolving doors have been spinning fast and furious in and around Hartford this week. No sooner did NBC take control of WVIT (Channel 30 New Britain-Hartford) than news director Micah Johnson, general sales manager Ron Pulera, and reporter Pete Yaksick were out of their jobs. Assistant news director Nancy Andrews is running the show at channel 30 for the moment.
  • Over at oldies station WDRC-FM (102.9) in Hartford, morning host Jerry Kristafer has been ousted after 15 years. Replacing Kristafer for now is weekend jock Don Brooks, with the station's website announcing Marc Sommers as the permanent replacement. Sommers comes to "Big D 103" from a stint with New York's WCBS-FM (101.1). No official reason was given for Kristafer's dismissal beyond the usual "philosophical differences," but Kristafer tells a local newspaper he thinks low ratings were to blame.
  • It's dead, Jim: Stephen King's WNSW (1200) in Brewer, MAINE apparently applied for license renewal -- even though it was cancelled and its callsign deleted back in February after being off the air for more than a year. This was one resurrection even King couldn't pull off; the FCC rejected the application, as the Telecom Act requires it to do.

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