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June 2, 2008

Access.1 Sells in Atlantic City


*It was just five years ago this summer that Access.1 Communications spent $22 million to buy the former Howard Green stations in the Atlantic City, NEW JERSEY market - NBC affiliate WMGM-TV (Channel 40 Wildwood), plus two FM and three AM stations. Two years later, Access.1 added another FM to the cluster, paying $5 million for modern rock WJSE (102.7 Petersburg). And now Access.1 is selling most of its Atlantic City radio cluster, putting the signals - WJSE, classic rock WMGM (103.7 Atlantic City), oldies WTKU (98.3 Ocean City), news/talk WOND (1400 Pleasantville) and progressive talk WTAA (1490 Pleasantville) - in the hands of a new group called "Atlantic Broadcasting."

The new owners are local, led by president Brett DeNafo, programmer Paul Kelly (currently at WAYV, though today will be his last day there), engineer Michael Ferriola and promotions director Joseph Borsello, and they say they have a "well thought out and innovative game plan to bring the stations back to the high ratings and revenue level they once achieved." The cluster's current GM, Dick Irland, and sales director, Mike Kazala, will stay on board.

The purchase price hasn't been announced, but we hear that Atlantic is getting the stations, plus the studio building in Linwood and two transmitter sites, for considerably less than Access.1 paid for the stations back in 2003.

In addition to keeping WMGM-TV, Access.1 is also hanging on to WGYM (1580 Hammonton), which has been simulcasting WOND, and no, we don't know why WGYM wasn't included in the sale.


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 35 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.

*We'd heard the rumors a few weeks back, and now it's official - Blake Lawrence, the last holdover from the old WQCD, has resigned as PD of Emmis' WRXP (101.9 New York). No replacement has been named so far.

Up in Westchester, there are some staffing changes at WXPK (107.1 Briarcliff Manor): Mike Batiste moves from nights at "The Peak" to a new post as interactive new media director for owner Pamal Broadcasting. Caroline Corley takes over at night on WXPK (she'd been doing weekends there), while Kat Suda assumes Batiste's former promotions responsibilities.

It's not yet on the air, but Long Island's new WRMR (89.3 Lindenhurst) has been sold. JCM Radio of NY, Inc. is selling the unbuilt construction permit to Calvary Chapel of Hope for $57,000.

Here in Rochester, we're thinking Brother Wease is one happy man this week, now that he's going home to the very same studio he occupied as morning host on WCMF (96.5 Rochester). That's because Wease's new employer, Clear Channel Radio, is taking over the former CBS Radio studio space in the HSBC Building, a block away from the current Clear Channel studios at Midtown Plaza.

Clear Channel has to vacate Midtown within a few months, now that the city of Rochester is buying the failed shopping/office complex and demolishing it.

Back on May 5 we speculated that the former CBS space, designed for four FM stations, might be a good fit for the Clear Channel cluster, which includes Wease's future home, classic rocker WFXF (95.1 Honeoye Falls), news-talker WHAM (1180 Rochester), top-40 "Kiss" WKGS (106.7 Irondequoit) and four other stations.

The former CBS space has remained occupied since Entercom bought the cluster, but Stephens Media Group, which ended up with the leftover stations from the purchase (AC WRMM-FM 101.3, adult hits "Fickle" WFKL 93.3 and modern rock WZNE 94.1) ended up with a much larger facility than it needed for its stations, so it's no great surprise that it's willing to move out and let Clear Channel move in.

Clear Channel plans to do some renovating at its new home, taking part of the 18th floor in addition to the existing Stephens space on the 16th and 17th floors, and there's no word yet on where Stephens will move its stations once Clear Channel takes over at the HSBC Building. There's no word yet, either, on when Wease will return to the airwaves on WFXF - but we're told that when he does, his old WCMF corner studio on the 17th floor still sits largely intact, sofas and all.

(One more Clear Channel note - the cluster's WCRR 107.3 South Bristol Township is the new home this season of Rochester Rhinos soccer, as the team moves to that rimshot FM signal from its longtime home on WYSL 1040.)

Meanwhile, across town at the Crawford Broadcasting stations, there's a call and format change coming today. Now that oldies/standards "Legends" WLGZ is firmly established on its new FM home, WLGZ-FM (102.7 Webster), Crawford is flipping WLGZ (990 Rochester) from a "Legends" simulcast (with breakaways for some leased-time programming) to full-time religion. The new calls on 990, WRCI, are the former calls from 102.7 - and the format is similar to the religious format formerly heard on 990 and 102.7 in their WDCZ days, a decade or so ago.

There's a new AM-on-FM translator in western New York: WCJW (1140 Warsaw) has turned on W279BO (103.7), operating with 110 watts from the AM transmitter site in the hills east of Warsaw. As with all such AM-on-FM translators, it's operating under Special Temporary Authority for now, though there's ample reason to believe the FCC will soon make such operation permanent.

Up north, St. Lawrence University's North Country Public Radio has call letters for several of its new construction permits: mark down WXLB (91.7 Boonville), WXLE (88.7 Canton) and WSLG (90.5 Gouverneur).

*In western PENNSYLVANIA, it didn't take long for ESPN management to pull the plug on WEAE (1250 Pittsburgh) afternoon host Mark Madden, once the headlines about his controversial Ted Kennedy comments started spreading. Madden was off the air last Monday, and by Tuesday the word came down from Bristol that ESPN was exercising its "contractual rights" to remove Madden from the air. The move comes at perhaps the worst possible time for the station, what with the hometown Penguins in the Stanley Cup finals and all, and WEAE is trying to make the best of it with a rotating cast of fill-in hosts until a permanent replacement for the high-profile Madden can be named.

Across town at CBS Radio's KDKA (1020 Pittsburgh), engineers turned on 24-hour HD Radio last week, and that sets up an interesting test case for the effects of digital sidebands via skywave, since CBS is also running HD on adjacent-channel stations WBZ (1030 Boston) and WINS (1010 New York). There have already been many anecdotal reports of interference to KDKA's signal within its home market, especially in Westmoreland County, east of Pittsburgh; will KDKA's substantial skywave wreak havoc with WBZ in areas such as Worcester and southern New Hampshire? (We're waiting, too, to hear what WINS sounds like now at our usual New York-market listening post in Rockland County, 25 miles or so north of its transmitter site, where deep nulls in WINS' pattern already make it a challenging listen in analog; there's also a question about whether KDKA's digital sidebands will interfere with another 1010 signal, Toronto's CFRB.)

Getting back to fired jocks, the morning slot on Philadelphia's WIOQ (102.1) most recently filled by the departed Chris Booker is being occupied, for now, by Booker's former co-host Diego. The rest of the Booker morning team - Angi Taylor and producer Blaire Galaton - are also out; still no word on whether Q102 will go with a new local morning show, or a simulcast of the Elvis Duran show from sister station Z100 in New York.

There's a change at the anchor desk at Philadelphia's Fox station, WTXF (Channel 29): Dave Huddleston's contract isn't being renewed, leaving a vacancy at 10 PM after Huddleston's last day June 13.

*One of Atlantic CANADA's oldest AM stations made an abrupt disappearance from the dial late last week, as CTV wasted no time moving CJCH (920 Halifax) to its new home on the FM band.

After less than a week of testing, CJCH-FM (101.3 Halifax) signed on for real Friday morning (May 30) at 10 AM, with none of the usual FM/AM transitional simulcasting that's common in Canadian FM-to-AM moves. Instead, the 25 kW AM signal went to a "move to FM" loop for a few hours, then went silent for good.

The new FM signal isn't picking up the AM station's oldies format, either. Instead, it's doing top 40 as "101.3 the Bounce." Out as part of the transition is 30-year station veteran Rick Howe, who'd hosted the "Hotline" talk show that was heard in middays on CJCH(AM).

Meanwhile, there's a station sale across the Halifax market, as Newcap pays C$8.5 million for half of Metro Radio Group, the parent company of CKUL (96.5). Newcap already owns CFRQ (104.3) in Halifax, as well as CFDR (780 Dartmouth), and therein lies an interesting issue: last year, Newcap won permission from the CRTC to move CFDR to the FM dial, with 21 kW on 88.9. But that permission was contingent on Newcap selling its half-interest in CKUL; otherwise, the company would run afoul of the CRTC rule limiting owners to two stations on each band in a market.

*In the Providence, RHODE ISLAND market, there's a new afternoon jock at WCTK (98.1 New Bedford MA), as Kevin Palana-Lawrence (late of Connecticut's WQGN) replaces Robby Bridges, who's now at Connecticut's WEBE.

*Speaking of CONNECTICUT, former WICC (600 Bridgeport) morning man John LaBarca has found a new job not far away. He's the new morning host at Cox's news-talk WSTC (1400 Stamford)/WNLK (1350 Norwalk), filling a hole that's been open for a while now.

And returning to WEBE for a moment, Bob Gilmore is giving up his Sunday morning shift after 11 years, as he switches day jobs from ABC Radio, where he'd been an engineering manager, to ESPN Radio up in Bristol. Kathy Taylor takes over on Sunday mornings at WEBE.

*It's the end of the line for NEW HAMPSHIRE's WMEX (106.5 Farmington); with the sale of the station to EMF Broadcasting, its current oldies format goes away at 10:00 this morning, to be replaced right away by satellite-fed "K-Love" contemporary Christian. Program director/morning man Gary James is taking WMEX out with a bang, filling the last weekend with deep-cut oldies and original PAMS jingles; the station also held a free "Last Dance" party for listeners on Saturday night. The new calls on 106.5 once K-Love takes over will be WKHL, an ID last heard down in Stamford, Connecticut on what's now WCTZ. (Useless trivia, NERW-style: that Stamford station was once WQQQ, a set of calls now in the hands of Dennis Jackson, who's selling WMEX to EMF.)

*EMF also brings K-Love to MAINE today, as it takes over WCYI (93.9 Lewiston) from the Last Bastion Station Trust, which sold the station for Citadel. WCYI has been programming an automated blues format for the last few months.

*And we close with our deepest condolences to VERMONT Public Radio director of engineering Rich Parker on the loss of his son, Jonathan.

After a seven-year fight with leukemia, Jonathan took a turn for the worse last week, dying Wednesday at a Burlington hospital. At the age of 24, Jonathan Parker was on his way to a career in the business, studying sound recording technology and computer engineering at UMass Lowell. He was often seen with his father at industry gatherings, and had worked with him at VPR. Services were held Sunday in Jericho, Vermont; we'll pass along information about the memorial fund that's being established as soon as we have it.

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!)

June 4, 2007 -

  • It took several years, but one of the more star-crossed AM signals in MASSACHUSETTS has found a buyer. WWZN (1510 Boston) has had a difficult last few years, as One-on-One Sports and its successor Sporting News Radio have tried to make a go of it as the market's number-three sports radio station, in the shadow of behemoth WEEI and feisty upstart WAMG/WLLH, with a signal that misses many of the growth areas in the market and what we hear is a very unfavorable transmitter-site lease to boot.
  • Over the years, WWZN has attempted to compete with a variety of local shows, including several years with veteran talker Eddie Andelman and a few seasons as the Celtics' flagship. Those stabs at local programming failed to draw ratings or profits, and last year the station let most of its local staff go and switched to a combination of Sporting News Radio network feeds and leased-time shows while owner Paul Allen (through his "Rose City Radio") put the station and its SNR sisters in Los Angeles and New York up for sale. The Los Angeles station, KMPC (1540), found a buyer earlier this year, switching to Korean-language programming. And now WWZN and WSNR (620 Jersey City NJ) are also being sold, to a new company formed by Davidson Media principal Peter Davidson.
  • His new "Blackstrap Broadcasting" will spend $20.5 million (and probably a little more, as we'll explain later in the column when we get to the WSNR piece of the deal) to acquire the two stations - and no sooner had that news broken last week than the message boards and mailing lists were aflame with speculation about the future of WWZN after Blackstrap takes over. The new company inadvertently fueled some of that fire with a press release that touted Davidson's committment to serving the needs of recent immigrants with programming in their languages, a description that fits the WSNR format (mostly Russian), but which would seem to portend a format change away from sports at WWZN after more than seven years with the format. That was on Tuesday, and by Thursday WWZN GM Anthony Pepe had issued a follow-up release saying first that "we are excited about the opportunity to continue with sports programming at 1510 The Zone" - and then that "1510 The Zone has been brokering time since 2005 and that will continue to be the business model under the new owners."
  • In other news from around the Bay State, it appears that the owner of WESX (1230 Salem) and WJDA (1300 Quincy) has died. Just a year after Otto Miller bought those stations from their longtime local ownership, flipping them to Spanish-language religion from new studios in Quincy, we're told that Miller recently passed away, and we can say with certainty that Mercury Capital Partners, which funded Miller's Principal Broadcasting, is advertising for a new CEO for the chain. (Miller also owned WDJZ in Connecticut, and had a pending purchase of WLIE on Long Island.)
  • It was almost three years ago that MAINE radio listeners staged a noisy protest against a plan to flip WLVP (870 Gorham) from Air America talk to ESPN sports, persuading Nassau to stick with the progressive talk format for a while longer. With the recent changes at Air America, most notably the recent end of the Al Franken show, Nassau faced little opposition last week when it tried the flip again. On Friday morning, WLVP dropped Air America and began picking up the 24/7 ESPN feed as "ESPN 870," and this time Nassau says there were only a few complaints. The station says it will also add some local high school sports to the schedule.
  • VERMONT Public Radio has switched network feeds on its southwestern Vermont FMs. While WBTN-FM (94.3 Bennington) continues to carry VPR's main feed, which is predominantly news and talk, the recently-purchased WJAN (95.1 Sunderland) quietly flipped to VPR Classical, simulcasting with WNCH (88.1 Norwich) and giving the all-classical network a broader reach in the region, where it had previously been heard on translators in Bennington and Manchester. Is the long-sought Burlington outlet for the classical network the next announcement? Stay tuned...
  • Just one tremendously obscure bit of news from CANADA this week, and it has to do with TV in eastern Quebec: CJPC (Channel 18) in Rimouski is changing hands, with the CRTC approving a transfer that deletes the Rimouski transmitter from the license of TQS flagship CFJP (Channel 35) in Montreal and adds it as a relay of Television MBS' TQS affiliate CFTF (Channel 29) in Riviere-du-Loup. Why make the move? It allows CJPC to sell local advertising in Rimouski, where it will eventually add a bit of local programming as well.

May 27, 2003 -

  • The radio scene in western MASSACHUSETTS took another step toward consolidation late last week, when Vox Media, which bought WBEC (1420/105.5 Pittsfield) last year for $4.3 million, turned that pair into a cluster.
  • Vox will pay about $3 million to buy WUHN (1110) and WUPE (95.9) from Philip Weiner, who has owned a piece of the stations since 1977 and has owned them outright for the last 15 years.
  • Right now, WUHN carries satellite classic country on its 5000-watt daytime signal, while WUPE carries an AC format on its class A FM signal. Expect some changes when Vox takes over, to better complement the news-talk format on WBEC(AM) and the CHR of "Live 105" WBEC-FM...and we'd expect to see a consolidation of studio facilities between WUPE/WUHN (now east of downtown on Housatonic St.) and WBEC (west of downtown on Jason St.)
  • The "Party"'s over on 890 in Boston; Mega pulled the plug on Air Time Media's LMA of WBPS (890 Dedham) last Thursday night (5/29) at 6, flipping the calls to WAMG and the format to Spanish tropical "Mega." Sound familiar? The calls and format move down from 1150 Boston, which Mega is selling to Salem. 1150 picks up the WBPS calls for now, as it continues to simulcast "Mega" until the sale closes - but expect yet another call change there soon, cementing 1150's hold on the "most callsigns in Boston radio history" title. (NERW counts nine different ones: WCOP, WACQ, WHUE, WSNY, WMEX, WROR, WNFT, WAMG and now WBPS!)
  • Plenty doing in CANADA this past week (after all, it wasn't a holiday there) - and most of the action was in the nation's capital, where CHUM Group pulled the plug on CHR "Kool 93-dot-9" CKKL (93.9 Ottawa) at 9:39 AM on Friday. In its place, starting at noon, is "Bob," a classic hits/hot AC mix that describes itself as "80s, 90s and Whatever," with a format and nickname borrowed from CHUM's CFWM (99.9) out in Winnipeg. The station is running jockless for a week, but most of the Kool airstaff is expected to be back when the station goes live again later in June.
  • In NEW YORK, the Metropolitan TV Association (MTVA) has signed a deal to locate all of the city's major TV transmitters on the new skyscraper that will rise on the World Trade Center site. The pact will put 11 analog and 11 digital signals on the air from the new tower - both the stations that were on WTC (2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, 31 and 47) and two that never were (41 and 68) - thus easing the load on the Empire State Building once the new site is ready. The target date is 2008, but this is New York, after all... (2008 update: This is New York, after all...and construction is just getting underway on the Freedom Tower.)

June 4, 1998-

  • The tornadoes that ripped across upstate NEW YORK on Sunday claimed two broadcast towers in Binghamton. The 500-foot guyed tower of WIVT-TV (Channel 34) came down in the storm while the ABC affiliate's two master-control operators hid under the board for safety. When they came out, they found the station's studio/transmitter facility in shambles (it was later condemned), and their cars in the parking lot destroyed. WIVT has not been on the air since the tower fell, as best NERW can determine.
  • Just up Ingraham Hill Road, one of the self-supporting towers of WNBF (1290) was toppled as well. WNBF is operating on the rest of its night array under special temporary authority.
  • Elsewhere in the region, the storm silenced several Rochester and Albany area stations briefly, including WDCZ (990) in Rochester and WPYX (106.5), among others, in Albany.
  • The long saga of New Haven's WNHC (1340) is over for now, and the Yale Broadcasting Company's WYBC (94.3) is the winner. On Wednesday, YBC and Buckley Broadcasting, the owner of WDRC in Hartford, faced off in federal bankruptcy court over WNHC's assets. When it was all over, YBC raised its initial bid by more than $100,000, to pay $775,000 for the 1000-watt station. The bankruptcy judge ordered WNHC owner Edie Rozier to sign the station's current urban fornat off the air, which she did at 10:20 Thursday morning, saying closing the station was "like losing two families" - one at the station, and the other in New Haven's black community. WYBC isn't saying much about its plans for 1340, except that when it returns to the air, it will be from YBC's 165 Elm Street facility instead of WNHC's old Whalley Street studios. We'll keep you posted as YBC gets its AM facility up and running.
  • We'll start the rest of this week's news in VERMONT, as Bruce James begins making changes at his new Northeast Kingdom properties. WNKV (105.5 St. Johnsbury) has a new hot-country identity as "Kix 105.5," with the WKXH calls expected to arrive soon. Brendan Lynch is the new morning-drive personality at "Kix," as well as handling PD duties there and at sister stations WSTJ (1340 St. Johnsbury) and WMTK (106.3 Littleton NH). WMTK is now calling itself "the Notch," with morning-driver Chris Keach moving to afternoons and Mike Edwards taking mornings. Mike McCoy moves from weekends at James' WGMT (97.7 Lyndonville) to mornings at WSTJ, and Tom Field is now news director for all the stations.

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