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January 28, 2008

Now Ryan's Gone at WLTW, Too


*Now that NEW YORK's "Lite 106.7" has cut its ties to most of the airstaff who helped lead it to the top of the city's ratings and revenue charts over the last two decades, the station is also losing the program director who oversaw many of those successes.

After 11 years at the helm of WLTW, Jim Ryan announced last week that he'll step down at the beginning of May to form his own consulting firm focusing on adult contemporary stations. And just as WLTW looked to Philadelphia's WBEB (101.1) to find Ryan back in 1997, the station is once again calling on a veteran of Jerry Lee's Philly AC giant as Ryan's replacement.

Chris Conley replaced Ryan at B101, but recently left the station to become vice president for AC programming at McVay Media. He'll leave that firm on May 1 to become WLTW's next PD, where he'll face some interesting challenges. Clear Channel budget cuts over the last year have left WLTW without most of its signature personalities, and the financial pressures of the company's impending privatization look to leave Conley without much in the way of resources to rebuild.

*Way back in December 2006, NERW was the very first to report that Clear Channel had begun shopping its Long Island properties, WALK-FM (97.5 Patchogue) and WALK (1370 East Patchogue), to prospective buyers.

More than a year later, those stations are finally about to leave the Clear Channel fold, even though they've yet to find a buyer. On Thursday, the FCC released its decision approving the as-yet-unfinalized deal that will take Clear Channel private under the ownership of the Thomas H. Lee and Bain Capital private equity funds. To keep the new privatized Clear Channel under the FCC's current multiple-ownership limits, stations in several markets will be transferred to the "Aloha Station Trust" - and that includes the Long Island stations, which are nested into the New York market, where CC already owns the maximum five FM signals.

So WALK and WALK-FM will become Aloha holdings, with an FCC mandate to try as hard as possible to find a buyer for the stations within six months.

Also entering the Aloha fold will be WWDG (105.1 DeRuyter) and W252AC (98.3 Camillus) in the Syracuse market, WURH (104.1 Waterbury) in the Hartford market, WHCY (106.3 Blairstown) and WNNJ (1360 Newton) in northwest New Jersey and WGIP (1540 Exeter) on the New Hampshire seacoast.

*There's been another subtle format change in the lower Hudson Valley: after a couple of weeks of stunting (if you can call nonstop adult contemporary music "stunting"), Cumulus' WFAF (106.3 Mount Kisco) has returned to a near-simulcast of AC WFAS-FM (103.9 Bronxville). WFAF was a WFAS-FM simulcast from 2001 until 2005, when it flipped to a simulcast of Poughkeepsie's WPDH (101.5).

With WFAS-FM now holding a pending application to move its transmitter south into the Bronx, will Cumulus attempt to use 106.3 (whose signal doesn't get much south of the Cross-Westchester Expressway) as a replacement for 103.9?

(Oh, and about that "near-simulcast" - 106.3 is actually eight seconds ahead of 103.9, since it doesn't have an HD Radio delay, and it's running PSAs in place of the local spots on 103.9.)

Across the Hudson in Rockland County, we've heard plenty of complaints in recent years about the 1999 flip of WRKL (910 New City) to Polish-language programming, but it turns out one Rockland resident took matters a step further. Robert Schore of Monsey asked the FCC to deny WRKL its license renewal, on the grounds that the station isn't serving the public interest or meeting its EAS obligations. Last week, the FCC granted WRKL's renewal over Schore's objection. It says programming choices are up to the licensee, not to the Commission, and that Schore failed to present any actionable evidence of EAS violations at WRKL. (We're still waiting, incidentally, for any word from the FCC about the four pending applications for 1700 in Rockland County; that frequency was allocated in an unusual special proceeding last year to provide for full-time AM coverage of the county.)

In Watkins Glen, WTYX (1490 Watkins Glen) has changed calls to WRCE, presumably to honor the famous "Race" track there. WTYX has been simulcasting country WPGI (100.9 Horseheads) for the last few years; we remember it when it was still live and local as WGMF ("Watkins Glen-Montour Falls") many years ago, originally as a daytimer on 1500.

Stick a figurative fork in WCKL (560 Catskill); after several years in which the station has been silent except for a brief return to the air each June, the FCC has cancelled WCKL's license. (NERW wonders if WCKL's licensee, Black United Fund of New York, didn't let the FCC know that the station made its annual return from the dead last June.)

Greg Catlin is getting a promotion: the news director at Binghamton's WBNG-TV (Channel 12) is now VP of news for both WBNG and Granite sister station WTVH (Channel 5) up I-81 in Syracuse. Catlin will give up his anchor chair at WBNG to focus on his management responsibilities.

Over at Syracuse University, student-run WJPZ (89.1) made headlines last week for a stunt that signaled a shift in the format at "Z89." The station played Michael Jackson's "Beat It" for 24 hours last Monday, followed by the sound of a heartbeat for most of the day Tuesday before relaunching as "The Beat of Syracuse," with a more rhythmic top 40 sound replacing the former mainstream top 40 format.

There's a change in the scenery overlooking NERW Central: for the first time in almost half a century, there are no FM antennas on the oldest TV tower in western New York. The first FM signal showed up on Rochester's WROC-TV/WHEC-TV tower on Pinnacle Hill back in 1959, when WROC-FM (97.9) signed on there. The station later became WPXY-FM, and even after it moved its main antenna to the new American Tower facility on Pinnacle a couple of years ago, it maintained backup facilities at the WROC site. So did Entercom sister station WCMF (96.5), which used the WROC/WHEC tower from 1980 until 2006. (The tower was also home to WXXI-FM 91.5 from 1974 until 1980, just to keep the historical timeline complete.)

In any event, Entercom's lease at the WROC/WHEC site was apparently up; while we were downstate, tower crews were working through the night of January 16-17 to remove the old WPXY and WCMF antennas from that tower. NERW expects more work yet to come at that site, as temporary DTV antennas for WHEC-DT 58 and WROC-DT 45 (and the analog antenna shared by WROC-TV 8 and WHEC-TV 10) get replaced by permanent DTV antennas for WHEC (on 10) and WROC (on 45) over the next year or so.

Over in Buffalo, our friends at the Buffalo Broadcasters Association are launching a new lecture series. Veteran ABC News executive Av Westin will be the first speaker in the series, which kicks off Feb. 20 at the studios of WNED in downtown Buffalo. There's more information (and a boatload of Buffalo broadcasting history, too) at

Up in Watertown, Lance Hale is the new PD at rocker WOTT (100.7 Clayton), moving north from WAVF in Charleston, SC, where the words "lake-effect snow" don't have any real meaning. (Welcome to the neighborhood, Lance...and watch out for that Tug Hill Plateau!)


Still haven't ordered your 2008 Tower Site Calendar? You do realize that it's, don't you? We're already down to the last 120 or so calendars, and they're going fast. The 2006 and 2007 editions of the calendar sold out, and this one will do so as well, possibly as soon as this month.

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.

The calendar is just $18 with shipping and handling included - or better yet, beat our move to mandatory subscriptions later this year 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 sure 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.

*In addition to all of the week's news, we should note that it's a great time for fans of broadcasting history in New York.

On the bookshelves, there's a new novel out about the later years of inventor Nikola Tesla (The Invention of Everything Else, by Samantha Hunt), and that in turn prompted Kurt Andersen to devote last weekend's "Studio 360" show to Tesla and related radio topics. Among the show's highlights, as far as we're concerned, was a visit to the WNYC-FM transmitter room in the company of WNYC's new director of engineering, Jim Stagnitto.

Yes, there's even video there of "Stag" (who moved to WNYC from Clear Channel's WWPR last fall) showing Kurt around the processing racks and the transmitter, as well as several other neat stories about Tesla and his fellow inventors.

And then there's Philo T. Farnsworth, the television inventor who's getting his long-deserved share of attention by way of the new Broadway play The Farnsworth Invention, written by Aaron Sorkin (of "The West Wing" fame) and starring Hank Azaria as David Sarnoff and Jimmie Simpson as Farnsworth.

Your editor took in the play (in the congenial company of several other New York radio folks) earlier this month, and while NERW doesn't often review Broadway theater, we'll make an exception just this once.

Let's stipulate, first of all, that anyone looking to learn the history of American broadcasting from The Farnsworth Invention is in the wrong place. In the interest of dramatic tension, Sorkin plays some big games with the timeline of early radio, conflating the 1921 WJY broadcast of the Dempsey-Carpentier prize fight (over a "50,000-watt transmitter," yet!) with the late 1922 start of commercial broadcasts over WEAF, and then mixing those up with the 1926 founding of NBC.

Later in the play, there are a few teeth-grinding moments in which Sorkin's characters claim Major Armstrong "jumped to his death from a radio tower," and in which the $1 million payout that RCA made for Farnsworth's patents in 1939 fails to garner a mention, allowing Sorkin to portray Farnsworth's later years as unrelievedly gloomy ones.

In the bigger picture, though, these are nitpicks: the story Sorkin has set out to tell is not simply that of one inventor and one media mogul. In the play's second act, after his Sarnoff and Farnsworth characters have each narrated the basics of the other's life stories, Sorkin ups the ante, offering a gripping depiction of the 1929 stock market crash on the way to an exploration of some bigger questions.

His Sarnoff (again, somewhat historically improbably) evolves from an opponent of explicitly commercial broadcasting into a corporate chieftain determined "to burn (Farnsworth's) house down so he wouldn't burn mine down first," and as the play ends, Sorkin is reaching for a bigger conclusion about the role of big businesses and the ideas that fuel them - an idea that the play can't quite wrap its arms around, even when the moon landing and Farnsworth's later experiments with nuclear fusion are thrown in at the last moment.

There's a refrain that runs through The Farnsworth Invention every time Sarnoff mentions RCA's own electronic television experiments, led by the unjustly-maligned Vladimir Zworykin: "We invented television first. There was just one problem: it didn't work."

And here's the funny thing about The Farnsworth Invention: for all its glosses on history and for all the contortions Sorkin puts his script through to turn the tale of Sarnoff and Farnsworth into a 20th-century morality play, it does work. Sorkin is unparalleled in his ability to pack detail upon detail into fast-moving dialogue, to fill the stage with multiple characters in locations from coast to coast, and to still keep it funny. (And occasionally moving, too, as in a subplot involving Farnsworth, his wife, and the illness of their young son.)

Imagine Sarnoff and Farnsworth as characters on "The West Wing" (or, better yet, "Sports Night") and you've got the basic underpinnings of this play.

Once inside Sorkin's version of reality, director Des McAnuff and a very talented cast (especially Simpson as Farnsworth) have created a tight, gripping two-hour drama that may be a little too esoteric for the average Broadway aficionado (which might explain why our little band of radio folks had too much of the balcony to ourselves), but which makes delightful entertainment for anyone who already knows some of the terminology and the basic history. (If you're reading this column, that's you.)

It's also bound to start conversations, and in fact there's a great one going on over at a website ( that breaks the play down scene-by-scene for historical accuracy.

If you're within easy reach of Broadway, or planning a trip to New York sometime soon, take the two hours to see The Farnsworth Invention. How else, after all, can we someday get Sorkin and his producers to take on the even more gripping tale of Major Armstrong?

*Back to today's broadcast scene - there's a call change to reports in NEW JERSEY: with the start today of the simulcast of WEPN (1050 New York) on WCHR (1040 Flemington), 1040's calls change to WNJE, which presumably stands for "New Jersey's ESPN."

(For those obsessive types, we'll note that the WNJE calls were briefly parked on 920 in Trenton, ex-WPHY, which will again become WCHR.)

There's a TV station sale to report, too: WWSI (62 Atlantic City), the Telemundo affiliate serving Philadelphia, is being sold by Hispanic Broadcasters of Philadelphia to Washington-based ZGS Communications, which owns several other Telemundo affiliates in the region (including WTMU-LP Boston, WRIW-LP Providence and WRDM-LP Hartford/WDMR-LP Springfield), for $11 million.

How to hold up a radio station's renewal application for almost two years: When WWFM (89.1 Trenton) applied for renewal in 2006, one William Knight filed a petition to deny. Knight accused WWFM of being a "wholly amateur organization" and complained about "gross racial insensitivity" in a Martin Luther King weekend broadcast about Al Jolson. Needless to say, those aren't actionable grounds to deny a license renewal, so the FCC renewed WWFM's license (noting in passing that there are no rules prohibiting amateurs from running radio stations)

*Across the Delaware River in PENNSYLVANIA, Four Rivers Community Broadcasting's application for a new station on 1390 in Morrisville has been dismissed. The proposed new Trenton-area signal was one of 14 applications tossed out by the FCC last week for failure to submit a full technical application.

Congratulations to Joe Reilly - his WHLM (930 Bloomsburg) is getting more daytime power. The FCC initially denied his request to increase day power from 1000 to 2000 watts, but WHLM filed an amendment with updated ground-conductivity measurements to show that the increase wouldn't cause additional interference to co-channel WBEN in Buffalo, New York, and now the FCC has granted the power boost.

 Read NERW's comprehensive 2007 Year in Review

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*Where was MASSACHUSETTS programming veteran Jay Beau Jones headed when he left the PD chair at WORC-FM and WWFX in Worcester last week? Down the Pike to Boston, as it turns - he's been named PD of CBS Radio's WBMX (98.5 Boston) and WODS (103.3 Boston). At "Mix," Jones displaces Jerry McKenna, while at "Oldies" he replaces another PD, Pete Falconi, who also made the Worcester-to-Boston move a few years back. Jones has also programmed in Hartford (at the old WMRQ) and Chicago (at Clear Channel's "Kiss" WKSC).

On the noncommercial side of the dial, the Boston Globe's Clea Simon reported last week on a $500,000 federal grant that's allowing WUMB-FM (91.9 Boston) to reevaluate some of its programming and promotion strategies. With only a few shows from Public Radio International remaining on its schedule ("Mountain Stage" and "Afropop Worldwide"), WUMB is considering dropping its PRI affiliation in order to avoid paying what it calls excessive fees. WUMB general manager Pat Monteith tells Simon the station may also tweak its "Folk Radio" imaging to better reflect the current direction of its programming. Money from the CPB grant (of which WUMB is one of five recipients nationwide) is being used to survey listeners and conduct focus groups, and Monteith says some of the results may start showing on the station as soon as March.

*In CONNECTICUT, WTIC-TV (Channel 61) has named the anchor team for its new morning newscast, set to debut March 3. Current 10 PM weekend anchor Rebecca Stewart, former WVIT (Channel 30) anchor Logan Byrnes, WTIC (1080) chief meteorologist Joe Furey (who's also director of the New England Weather Service) and traffic reporter Rachel Lutzker will host the show.

Former WICC (600 Bridgeport) morning man John LaBarca returned to the air yesterday, bringing his popular "Italian House Party" back to the air on another Bridgeport signal, WDJZ (1530). But there's a controversy brewing over the "House Party" name - WICC owner Cumulus says it registered the name as a service mark just after LaBarca's split from the station, and it threatened legal action if LaBarca used the name on his new WDJZ show.

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.

*A long-dead MAINE AM station rose briefly from the dead last week, at least in FCC filings. Fittingly, WNSW (1200 Brewer) was last owned by Stephen King, and even the master of horror couldn't resurrect the station back in December 1997, when he applied for a license renewal. (NERW, 12/11/1997)

Back then, the FCC turned down the renewal application on the grounds that WNSW had already been dark for more than a year, and thus there was no valid license left to renew. So imagine our surprise last week when another application to renew WNSW's long-dead license came over the FCC transom, and was promptly accepted for filing.

What the heck is going on here? The latest application was filed by one Joseph E. Jurkenas of Brewer, whose somewhat incoherent filing is apparently attempting to move a never-built (and itself long-dead) CP for 990 in Belfast (or possibly the even longer-dead 1230 in Belfast) to 1200. Unfortunately for Jurkenas, the subsequent grant of a CP for a 50 kW power boost at WKOX (1200) in the Boston market would make a new 1200 in Brewer impossible, even if there weren't that pesky law that says any signal that's off the air for 12 consecutive months no longer has a license to renew anyway.

*Here's an unusual application from CANADA: CFRM (100.7 Little Current ON) is applying for a 50-watt relay transmitter on the same frequency in Sudbury, 50 miles away, to bring its community radio programming from Manitoulin Island to the nearest sizable city. The rationale? "The licensee advises that the transmitter would allow Sudbury residents who own property on Manitoulin Island to stay connected by providing them with important information relating to local weather, marine and road reports and events specific to Manitoulin."

One more thing we learned from CFRM's website: the station, known as "The Island FM," claims to be operating with HD Radio, one of a handful of signals testing the system north of the border.

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!)

January 29, 2007 -

  • Outside the engineering trade press, it's received almost no attention - and even in the engineering trades, it didn't get the attention it deserved. But the FCC rule changes that took effect last week certainly had the attention of consulting engineers all over the country, and they have the potential to lead to some dramatic station moves here in the northeast.
  • The new rules streamline the process by which AM and FM stations change their communities of license, frequency and class. For AM signals, any change of community was once considered a "major change," requiring a filing window that, in recent times, came only once every three or four years. For FM stations, changing communities was done through a cumbersome two-step process that began by filing a petition to alter the Table of Allotments, and only then was followed up with an application to move the station itself. Now that's all changed, and most of those moves can be filed as a simple one-step application, without waiting for a window. The first batch of applications began to emerge from the FCC last week, and we here at NERW spent the better part of our weekend sifting through them.
  • The biggest beneficiary of the new rules, interestingly, is the small community of Keene, NEW HAMPSHIRE, which could get two new FM signals, including one moving down the Connecticut River from the VERMONT side, plus a significant upgrade to a Massachusetts-based rimshot signal. The two new Keene FMs would come from the Clear Channel Upper Valley-based cluster that Jeff Shapiro's Great Eastern group is buying. Clear Channel filed (just before the sale itself was filed) to move WTSM (93.5 Springfield VT) to Swanzey NH, making it a class A signal with 2.3 kW/521' from West Hill in Keene - and to move WVRR (101.7 Newport NH) south to Westminster VT, relocating it to 101.9, where it would be a class A signal with 1.1 kW/774' DA from the WEKW-TV tower north of Keene. WTSM would have some company up on West Hill, too - Saga has applied to move WSNI (97.7 Winchendon MA) to Swanzey NH as well, moving it to the West Hill tower that's already home to Saga's WINQ (98.7 Winchester NH), where it would run 1.8 kW/613', with a signal identical to WINQ's.
  • The founder and longtime station adviser to high school station WAVM (91.7) in Maynard, MASSACHUSETTS, died last week, just as his trial on child rape and indecent assault charges was getting underway. Joseph Magno spent all day last Monday in court as attorneys held a pre-trial hearing in the case, then died at his home in Hudson that night, apparently of a heart attack. Magno had been under house arrest there since last March. Magno, 66, had been in poor health for the last year or so, since the charges against him became public. A jury was to have been seated for the trial later in the week; the charges will now be dismissed once a formal death certificate is filed with the court.
  • In NEW YORK, the new FM change rules brought with them several applications for station moves and upgrades. On Long Island, WEHM (92.9 Southampton) applies to move west to Manorville, where it would run 3.1 kW/462' with a directional antenna from the same tower currently used by WBZB (98.5 Westhampton) and WDRE (105.3 Calverton-Roanoke), losing some of its existing coverage in the Hamptons in exchange for more of central Suffolk County, almost as far west as Coram and Patchogue.
  • In the Adirondacks, little Old Forge already lost one of its two FM allotments to Watertown when Randy Michaels' RadioActive moved 92.5A to Black River last year. Now the other unbuilt Old Forge signal hopes to move to Watertown, too, as Live Air applies to take WZNY (94.1A) out of Old Forge and reallocate it as 94.1C3 in Calcium, running 12.5 kW/328' from a Time Warner tower on State Street Hill in Watertown. Michaels wasn't idle during the rule change: he's applying to move his new construction permit for a class C2 facility on 97.9 in Dannemora to Keeseville, much closer to Plattsburgh. RadioActive's 107.1A CP in Saranac Lake would move to Dannemora - and that's not the only move in the area, as Saranac Lake Radio's WYZY (106.3 Saranac Lake) would change city of license to Saranac, about 30 miles to the northeast, moving to the Lyon Mountain tower of WCFE-TV (Channel 57) and becoming a 1500 watt/2296' C2 signal booming over Plattsburgh and Burlington.
  • In northeast PENNSYLVANIA, sports radio is back on the AM dial. Responding to Connoisseur's flip of sports WFNN (1330 Erie) to oldies WFGO a couple of weeks ago, Citadel's flipping WRIE (1260 Erie) from standards to sports today as "ESPN Radio 1260 the Score." WRIE will also carry the Jim Rome show in middays.

January 27, 2003 -

  • Just in to NERW Central Thursday afternoon is word that one of New England's longest running morning teams is no more. Smith and Barber, of Cox's WPLR (99.1 New Haven), are calling it quits after more than 18 years at the rock station. Bruce Barber had been looking at getting out of radio for several months, we're told, and WPLR management decided not to keep going with just Brian Smith. Inbound to 'PLR are "Chaz and AJ" from WRCN (103.9 Riverhead) on Long Island; they'll work with the rest of the Smith and Barber morning team when they start on WPLR in mid-February. Much more in next Monday's NERW....
  • To the strains of Don McLean's American Pie, a legend returned to the airwaves of western NEW YORK this morning at 6. As first confirmed right here at NERW last week, Entercom pulled the plug on the ratings-challenged business talk format that had been occupying the 50,000 watts of Buffalo's WWKB (1520), returning the erstwhile WKBW to the music that made it great -- the hits (don't call them "oldies" these days) of 1958 through 1973. And what a way to do it -- complete with ads in the Buffalo News, a spiffy new Web site at, plenty of cross-promotion on Entercom sister stations WGR (550) and WBEN (930), including 90 minutes' worth of Friday's Sandy Beach (himself a 'KB alumnus) talk show on 'BEN, and a lineup of talent that Buffalo radio history buffs have long fantasized of reuniting at the top of the dial.
  • Anchoring the revitalized 'KB, as long rumored, is Danny Neaverth, a morning fixture on the original 'KB from 1963 until its 1988 demise -- and joining him on the 6-10 AM shift is Tom Donahue with "Pulse... Beat... NEWS". On afternoons is Hank Nevins, who followed Neaverth out the door at Citadel's oldies WHTT (104.1) last year, and holding down the 6-10 PM shift by voicetrack from his home base at WMQX (93.1 Winston-Salem NC) is none other than "Your LeeeeeeeeeeeeDER," the legendary Jackson Armstrong. Completing the initial lineup is Joey Reynolds' overnight talk show -- and Reynolds, who worked at 'KB in 1964-1965, will do his show live from Buffalo tonight.
  • Just when we thought 'KB's return would be the week's big story out of New York, though, the message boards began crackling early Monday morning with news that Infinity's WNEW (102.7 New York) was finally waking from its slumber and heading for a new format. WNEW's hot talk format has been on the endangered list, of course, since last summer's suspension of the station's flagship talk hosts, Gregg "Opie" Hughes and Anthony Cumia. With the duo off the roster, WNEW has been limping along with syndicated talk, a deliberately weakened morning show (so as not to challenge Infinity sister WXRK and Howard Stern), Ron and Fez in the evening and plenty of infomercials. Monday morning at 1:00, though, that mess of a non-format was abruptly replaced by Jennifer Lopez' "Jenny from the Block" and an announcement (on the air and on the station's Web site) that a new station was on the way to 102.7. That, in turn, is sparking a new round of rumors in the nation's biggest market -- will WNEW go to a female-leaning AAA-ish AC format, as message-board guru Allan Sniffen declared he'd been tipped last week? Will it fill the gaping hole in the country format? Or will Infinity shift 102.7 in some completely different direction?
  • New York was one of the few states where nobody could see the Super Bowl in digital form; amazingly, not one of the Empire State's ABC affiliates has its DTV signal on the air yet! Only a few viewers in the Albany area had a chance to see ABC's DTV presentation from San Diego, thanks to the signal of WCDC-DT (Channel 36) from Adams, Massachusetts, which beat its parent station (WTEN Albany) to the digital airwaves -- and which was picked up on Albany's cable system for game day.

January 26 & 29, 1998-

  • Montreal's CJAD is sliding around the dial again. The station's attempt to return to the 800 kHz frequency with a single tower proved unsuccessful, since non-directional operation on the crowded 800 frequency meant extremely low power. The temporary use of CFMB's old 1410 kHz facility was also less than successful, since the 1410 directional pattern misses most of CJAD's Anglophone audience to the west of Montreal. Enter CKGM, the CHUM Group talk station on 990 kHz. After reportedly failing to interrupt its diet of US talk shows (Dean Edell, "Dr." Laura Schlessinger, etc.) for ice storm coverage, CKGM has now agreed to lease out its signal to CJAD until CJAD's own facility is rebuilt, which could take several more months. CHUM Group officials are making no promises that the low-rated talk format will return to CKGM once the CJAD lease is over; the CKGM facility has been troubled by low ratings and frequent format changes ever since dropping its CHR format, changing calls to CKIS, and moving off 980 kHz in the late 1980s.
  • Sinclair Broadcasting is finally free to sell four Rochester, NEW YORK stations that it hasn't even bought yet. WBBF (950), WBEE-FM (92.5), WQRV (93.3 Avon), and WKLX (98.9) are among the Heritage Media stations Sinclair is buying -- and they're part of the group that both Entercom and Jacor wanted to buy. Both companies sued to get the Rochester stations, along with a 2 FM - 1 AM combo in Portland, Oregon. Jacor dropped its lawsuit earlier in the month, and Entercom dropped its suit this week after reaching a deal to pay $126.5 million for the seven stations. NERW wonders how long Entercom will hang on to the Rochester outlets. Portland is already an Entercom market, with 2 FMs and an AM there, but you'd have to go to Florida or Missouri to find the closest Entercom stations to Rochester. NERW suspects the Rochester group may get spun yet again in the near future...stay tuned.
  • Meantime, Sinclair may not be gone long from Rochester TV. The group is reportedly eyeing Sullivan Broadcasting, which owns Rochester Fox affiliate WUHF (Channel 31) and Buffalo Fox station WUTV (Channel 29). Sinclair is already buying Syracuse's Fox outlet, WSYT (Channel 68), and it's a major radio group owner in Buffalo. By the way, WUTV is finally giving up its secondary UPN affiliation. The weblet moves to little WNGS (Channel 67) Springville, which is not yet seen by most Buffalo-area cable homes.
  • On the TV side of things, WHEC (Channel 10) reporter Kendis Gibson is off to bigger things; he's headed for a reporter job at Fox O&O WTXF (Channel 29) in Philadelphia -- just three years after starting his very first paying TV job at WHEC.
  • The big news from MAINE: Portland-market classical station WPKM (106.3 Scarborough) is becoming the latest link in the "W-Bach" chain. New owner Mariner Broadcasting will rename the station WBQW; it'll simulcast WBQQ (99.3 Kennebunk).
  • Across the border: CKLY (910) in Lindsay, Ontario is the latest Canadian AM to get permission to move to FM. CKLY will simulcast for three months or so on 91.9 with 20 kilowatts before moving to FM for good sometime this summer. Up in New Brunswick, CHSJ (700) in Saint John has started broadcasting on 94.1 MHz; the AM signal, which is well-heard in coastal New England, will go silent come spring.

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