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February 9, 2009

Cumulus' Turn for Job Cuts

*It didn't get the nationwide attention that Clear Channel drew for its massive job cuts a couple of weeks ago, but Cumulus made some big cuts of its own on Friday, and at least in some markets the pain went just as deep, proportionally, as did the Clear Channel cuts last month.

The worst-hit, at least in this region, appears to be the cluster in CONNECTICUT's Fairfield County, where WICC (600 Bridgeport) and WEBE (107.9 Westport) lost more than half a dozen staffers on Friday afternoon.

Gone from WICC are news director/morning news anchor Tim Quinn, who'd been with WICC for 36 years; afternoon news anchor Paul Pacelli, who'll continue with the station as a part-timer; 1-4 PM talk host David Smith and 4-7 PM talk host Brian Smith. The syndicated Clark Howard show will move into the 1-4 PM slot, while Jim Buchanan's "Talk of the Town" show moves to afternoons to replace Brian Smith - which in turn puts Dennis Miller in Buchanan's former 10 AM-1 PM slot.

So if you're keeping track - that means a station that was doing live talk from 5 AM until 7 PM with three newspeople is now doing local talk only in morning and afternoon drive, with a full-time news staff of one. Good for the short-term bottom line? Sure - but it's certainly not going to do anything for WICC's long-term outlook, or to draw more listeners to local radio in general over the long run.

Across the hall at WEBE, Mary Lee is out as morning co-host, leaving "Stormin' Norman" solo, while Ann Rondapierre, who'd been doing afternoon traffic, is gone as well. We're hearing several back-office employees at the cluster were cut, too; there's no word (so far) of cuts at Cumulus' other Connecticut cluster, up in Danbury.

This Week in the DTV Follies: Now that Congress has voted to extend the deadline for the shutoff of analog full-power TV to June 12, with President Obama poised to sign the delay into law early this week, TV stations have until tonight at midnight to notify the FCC about their plans to stay on or shut off on the original schedule. As we "go to press" Sunday night, the situation remained fluid in many markets, with station managers nervously looking right and left to see how their competitors plan to handle the situation.

We'll have a full market-by-market roundup next week of stations' decisions to stay on or pull the plug, but for now we'll let you know what we're hearing from market to market.

In Hartford-New Haven, it appears that CBS affiliate WFSB (Channel 3) will stick to the Feb. 17 deadline, as will Connecticut Public TV's analog transmitters statewide. But NBC and the other "Big 4" networks have committed their owned-and-operated stations, including WVIT (Channel 30), to extended analog operations. No definite word yet from Tribune (WTXX/WTIC-TV) or LIN (WTNH/WCTX).

*There's not much left to cut at Cumulus' clusters across the state line in NEW YORK - WFAS (1230 White Plains) and WFAS-FM (103.9 Bronxville) in Westchester County have already been through big cutbacks in recent years, as have the Cumulus stations to the north in the Poughkeepsie market - and word is that those clusters were spared more pain last week.

WFAS-FM, of course, has a construction permit to move its transmitter south from Westchester to the Bronx, and it now appears that the station may have some company whenever it relocates to the Montefiore Medical Center building that's already home to WFUV (90.7 New York).

WVIP (93.5 New Rochelle) already derives much of its income from leasing time to ethnic broadcasters (largely Haitian Creole) who target listeners in the Bronx, Queens and north Jersey, and now owner Bill O'Shaughnessy is applying to move the station from its current transmitter site in Westchester to the WFUV tower.

From that site, WVIP would run 1.75 kW/433', putting most of Manhattan and Queens within its 60 dBu contour - and it would become the third class A signal to move from New York's northern suburbs into the city, following WFAS-FM and Cox's WCTZ (96.7), which changed city of license from Stamford, CT to Port Chester, NY in preparation for a move to the Bronx.

So far, none of the proposed moves has actually been made, and the delays are no doubt partly attributable to the economic slump that's sharply reduced station values. Will WVIP end up being the first of the three to carry out its move? We'll be watching.

*The slump on Wall Street is taking its toll on the media companies that depend heavily on finance-industry clients, and that includes Bloomberg LP, parent company of New York's WBBR (1130). The New York Post reported that 60 staffers from Bloomberg Radio and TV were laid off last week, and from the radio side, those cuts included veteran anchors and reporters such as Mitch Lebe, Ian Hunter and Jessica Moore - and they meant many radio-only features will be abandoned in favor of simulcasts of Bloomberg TV audio.

Out on Long Island, Tim Clarke is leaving Cox's WBLI (106.1 Patchogue), where he's been music director; he's heading south to WAPE in Jacksonville to serve as PD.

Up the Hudson Valley, we're hearing that WCKL (560 Catskill) has once again fallen silent after several months of simulcasting WCTW (98.5); the station has not operated with a regular schedule or with any of its own programming since Clear Channel spun it off to Black United Fund of New York back in 2003, and it was recently being noted far off-frequency (560.8 kHz or thereabouts), which delighted DXers but must have made for some noisy interference to its neighbors on 560 in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania.

Way upstate, WYME (97.9 Au Sable) has now been licensed, though it's apparently not programming on a regular basis. The Plattsburgh-market C3 signal is owned by Randy Michaels' RadioActive group (though it's been listed for sale), and transmits from the WPTZ (Channel 5) site on Terry Mountain.

There must be something in the Finger Lakes drinking water: just a week after Geneva's WEOS (89.7) applied for the semi-legendary "WVWA" calls for its new 90.3 construction permit in Auburn, Ithaca Community Radio followed up with a callsign request for its new 89.9 in Odessa - that new signal will be "WINO," which ought to be a tribute to the late George Carlin but is more likely a reference to the region's flourishing wine industry.

DTV Follies: The state's biggest market, New York City, looks like it will be keeping most of its remaining analog service through the June 12 deadline, which must be something of a blow to public broadcaster WNET, impatient to replace its low-power Channel 61 DTV operation with full-power digital on its former analog channel, 13.

Stations in Albany are split - Hubbard's NBC affiliate, WNYT (Channel 13), will stay on the air in analog through June, while Newport's Fox station, WXXA (Channel 23) will sign off on schedule Feb. 17. Other stations in the market haven't decided yet what they'll do.

In Utica, WKTV (Channel 2) will stick to the early shutoff, and we're hearing Nexstar will do the same at WUTR (Channel 20) and WFXV (Channel 33).

There's no word yet on plans from Watertown, Binghamton or Elmira; the Elmira stations are all awaiting the shutdown of analog in order to go full-power with digital signals on their former analog channels.

Syracuse viewers will lose analog service from CBS, Fox and the CW, as Granite pulls the plug on WTVH (Channel 5) and Sinclair silences analog service on WSYT (Channel 68) and WNYS (Channel 43); no word yet on the market's remaining stations.

In Rochester, it's a split - Sinclair's Fox affiliate, WUHF (Channel 31), goes off on Feb. 17, while public station WXXI (Channel 21) and Newport's ABC station, WHAM-TV (Channel 13) will keep analog on through June, with the market's other players likely to follow suit.

In Buffalo, Sinclair will turn off WUTV (Channel 29, Fox) and WNYO-TV (Channel 49, My), while Granite pulls the plug on WKBW (Channel 7, ABC); other stations in the market look to be staying on for the duration.

And up north in the Plattsburgh-Burlington market, it looks like a DTV converter box will be a must, since the market's stations all plan to hold to the Feb. 17 date. (That's somewhat significant, since the lengthy delays in getting DTV signals on the air from Mount Mansfield meant viewers in Burlington and vicinity had less time than most of the rest of the country to transition to digital; if they're ready, shouldn't the rest of the nation be, too?)


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*Saga's NEW HAMPSHIRE cluster suffered two big job losses last week, both at classic hits WMLL (96.5 Bedford): PD/afternoon jock Alex James and morning man Adam McCune are both out at "The Mill," which has turned to satellite-delivered programming from Dial Global to replace those local shifts.

Across town at Nassau's WJYY (105.5 Concord), there's more satellite programming, too - the ubiquitous Ryan Seacrest is now being heard there in middays, replacing Gabrielle Vaughn.

And there's a radio connection to Governor John Lynch's choice of a replacement for U.S. Senator Judd Gregg as he departs for a post in the Obama Cabinet: Bonnie Newman was one of the principals in WZEA (102.1 Hampton) when that station went on the air in 1992. She sold it in 1995, and it later became half of Citadel's "Shark" simulcast as WSAK.

DTV Follies: Most Granite State stations - including Hearst-Argyle's WMUR in Manchester and New Hampshire Public TV - were originally sticking to the Feb. 17 transition date, but WMUR now says it will stay on until June.

*The Cumulus cuts affected MAINE as well, where we're hearing Damien Brown is out at WBZN (107.3 Old Town), where he was doing afternoons.

Up the road in Dexter, EMF Broadcasting wasted no time flipping WGUY (102.1) from oldies to its satellite-delivered "K-Love" contemporary Christian format late last week. Sister station WFZX (101.7 Searsport), which is also being purchased by EMF, is still running the oldies format that it was simulcasting with WGUY, but that should change any day now.

DTV Follies: Viewers in Portland have already lost their analog PBS, CW, My and Fox signals, and it appears they'll lose CBS as well, since Sinclair's WGME (Channel 13) will stick to the original date. Hearst-Argyle's WMTW (Channel 8) will reportedly stay on with analog ABC, and there's no decision from Gannett's NBC station, WCSH (Channel 6).

In Bangor, WLBZ (Channel 2) and WABI (Channel 5) will keep their analog signals on through June, while WVII (Channel 7) will shut down.

*Hall Communications made a surprise format flip on its RHODE ISLAND AM signal and its southeastern Massachusetts simulcast sister last week. WLKW (1450 West Warwick RI) and WNBH (1340 New Bedford MA) had been carrying the "Timeless Favorites" satellite-fed standards format, but a hole in the market opened up when Citadel flipped WSKO AM/FM away from their "Score" sports format last year - so as of last Monday, WLKW and WNBH are carrying ESPN Radio sports talk on a full-time basis.

(Speaking of ESPN Radio, we've been tremendously remiss in not mentioning the experimental FM signal that's on the air from the network's campus over in Bristol, Connecticut. WX4ESPN is the callsign for the signal on 98.1 that's being used as a testbed for advanced HD Radio services, including several all-digital modes and extended hybrid multicasting.)

DTV Follies: You'd better have your box ready if you watch Providence TV - the market's PBS and CW stations are already digital-only, and the rest of the signals will stick to the Feb. 17 deadline.

*In MASSACHUSETTS, WHDH-TV (Channel 7) and its star anchor, Randy Price, abruptly parted ways on Thursday.

For a station that's always shunned the "star system," Price was as close as WHDH has come to a veteran anchor, having joined the station in 1998 after several years across town at WBZ-TV (Channel 4). In recent years, he'd been the face of the station's 5, 6 and 11 PM newscasts. But he tells the Boston Herald that he was called in to meet with station owner Ed Ansin late last week and told that the station "needed to make changes" - and that "I really can't contribute in the way they they probably want me to contribute."

Does that portend another swing towards blood-and-guts, tabloid-style news at Channel 7, which made a big splash when its brash style shook up the market after Ansin bought the station in 1993, only to slip back in the ratings behind a resurgent WBZ in recent years.

(One more WHDH-TV note: the station has launched the new "This TV" network on its 7.2 subchannel, formerly home to NBC's now-defunct Weather Plus.)

There's another veteran personality leaving the Boston TV news scene: Dick Albert announced on Wednesday that he's retiring from WCVB (Channel 5) after more than 30 years there, most recently as co-chief meteorologist, delivering the weather reports during Channel 5's 5 and 6 PM newscasts.

Albert, 64, says his retirement will take effect after his Feb. 26 reports; among his post-retirement project will be his blog at

WBZ (1030 Boston) has picked weekend sports anchor Walt Perkins to fill the morning-drive shoes of Gil Santos. Perkins has a long history on the New England broadcast sports scene: he went to the University of New Hampshire, worked at WEAN/WPJB in Providence and WGIR in Manchester after graduation, then moved into TV at Providence's WLNE (1985-1988), WBZ-TV and WSBK in Boston (1988), then as a freelancer for WCVB until joining WBZ's weekend radio team in 2003.

(As for WBZ veteran Bob Lobel, who'd been filling in for Santos the week after his departure? He's doing some freelance work for New Hampshire's WTPL, including a trip down to Florida to cover Red Sox spring training.)

Over at Boston's ESPN Radio affiliate, WAMG (890 Dedham)/WLLH (1400 Lowell), local sports talk appears to be making a disappearing act. The local midday show with Mike Salk and Bob Halloran is gone, replaced by extended carriage of the network's offerings. That leaves just the local afternoon "Lew and Mike" show in place, and David Scott's "Scott's Shots" column over at Boston Sports Media Watch speculates that it's only there because host Lew Goldstein is buying the time. Scott also reports that the rumors of "ESPN Boston" moving to the WCRB (99.5) studios in Waltham appear to be unfounded, with the station staying put at the Schrafft Center in Charlestown.

Out on the Cape, it was Qantum Communications making cuts: Larry Egan, who'd been doing mornings on WCIB (101.9 Falmouth), is gone, replaced by Joe Rossetti, who moves over from afternoons at sister station WCOD (106.1 Hyannis). Ricky B takes the WCOD afternoon shift. Over at WRZE (96.3 Dennis), David Duran is out as PD and afternoon jock, with Steve "McVie" Solomon taking on PD duties (adding to his existing PD duties for WCIB) and a longer airshift.

DTV Follies: For whatever reason, Fox's Boston outlet, WFXT, isn't acknowledging what viewers already know - while there may be some remnant of an analog signal coming out of its transmitter, it's not surviving the trip up the tower to the antenna. So we'll count Fox as already digital-only in Boston, even as most of the rest of the market's stations are apparently prepared to keep their analog signals on the air for a while. Public broadcaster WGBH says it may have to shut down the aging WGBX (Channel 44) analog transmitter, and Entravision is offering similar warnings about Univision outlet WUNI (Channel 27).

Over in Springfield, they're down to just one analog, anyway - NBC affiliate WWLP (Channel 22) - and there's no word yet on whether they'll stick it out until June.


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*In eastern PENNSYLVANIA, there's a new PD at WPHT (1210), as Ed Palladino moves up from assistant PD to fill a seat that's been empty since last May, when John Cook lost his job as PD of WPHT and sister station WYSP (94.1).

Over in Lebanon, Calvary Chapel of Lebanon is buying WOMA-LP (93.1) from the Latino America Media Organization for $18,000.

Up in the Lehigh Valley, there will be an FM signal this year for the New York Yankees, as Nassau adds the team's games to rocker WWYY (107.1 Belvidere NJ). The Yanks are already heard in the market on Nassau's ESPN simulcast, WTKZ (1320 Allentown)/WEEX (1230 Easton), but those signals are challenged at night

In Pittsburgh, KDKA (1020) faces a $6,000 fine from the FCC for a bit of goofiness committed by talk host Marty Griffin on a slow Thanksgiving Day shift back in 2007. To get the phones moving, Griffin joked that he'd give away a million dollars to the thirteenth caller - but one listener apparently wasn't in on the joke, because he complained to the FCC that he'd been caller 13, yet hadn't received his promised million dollars. The FCC reviewed the transcript, and KDKA's contention that any regular listener to Griffin's show would have known he was being facetious - and it concluded that Griffin had indeed conducted a "contest," per FCC rules, and had broken those rules by failing to pay out to the "winner."

DTV Follies: Since all of the "big four" outlets in Philadelphia are network O&Os, it appears those signals will stay on in analog through June.

In Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, analog service from Fox and CW is already history, and it appears that PBS outlet WVIA will follow suit on Feb. 17; no word yet from the market's remaining commercial signals.

In the Harrisburg market, Hearst-Argyle NBC affiliate WGAL (Channel 8) says it will stay on through June, while others in the market have yet to commit.

Over in Johnstown/Altoona, Cox's NBC outlet, WJAC (Channel 6) says it will stay on through June, and there's no word yet from the market's other stations.

In Pittsburgh, CBS will keep KDKA-TV (Channel 2) on with analog through June - but if Cox does the same at WPXI (Channel 11), that will delay the sign-on of the digital signal at KDKA's sister station, CW outlet WPCW (Channel 19), which is to use channel 11 when WPXI's analog goes away. Public broadcaster WQED will pull the plug on WQEX (Channel 16) analog, in the unlikely event anyone notices, and will silence WQED (Channel 13)'s analog in a month or so, allowing WQED-DT to move from 38 to 13 and WQEX-DT to move from 26 to 38.

And poor Erie, which is awaiting the end of analog so that it can finally get a full complement of full-power DTV signals, may have to wait a bit longer; there's no word yet about the fate of plans to flash-cut on WICU's channel 12 or WJET's channel 24.

We'll update these "DTV Follies" listings once the filings are all in to the FCC later this week...stay tuned!

*The alternative rock void on the NEW JERSEY shore left behind by the format flip at "G Rock Radio" (WHTG-FM 106.3 Eatontown/WBBO 106.5 Bass River Township) is being filled - sort of - by streaming audio and, soon, an HD2 subchannel. "" is coming from Millennium Radio, and we hear it will soon be broadcast on the HD2 of WJLK-FM (94.3 Asbury Park.)

There's a new analog signal on the air, too - there's late word that WDNJ (88.1 Hopatcong) is on the air with Spanish-language Christian contemporary programming.

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*CANADA's financial slump may lead to a TV station sale: CanWest Global announced last week that it's "exploring options" for the future of its "E!" network stations, including Hamilton-based CHCH (Channel 11) and Montreal's CJNT (Channel 62). Among the names being floated as possible owners are Torstar, the parent company of the Toronto Star and the Hamilton Spectator. Within Hamilton, there's concern about the future of CHCH's local presence; while the station has long operated under license conditions that compel it to focus its newscasts and ad sales on Hamilton and the Niagara region, but given the station's broadcast and cable presence across the province, could the CRTC be persuaded that CHCH needs to be allowed to broaden its reach to stay afloat in rough times?

The economy also played a role in the CRTC's decision to turn down most of the nine applicants who sought new stations in London, Ontario. Rejecting proposals from big guns such as Rogers and CTV, the CRTC instead granted a single new commercial license to Blackburn Radio, which proposed a 4 kW signal on 98.1 running a AAA format. It also approved an application from Sound of Faith Broadcasting, which will trade its low-power CHJX (105.9) for a 234-watt signal on 99.9.

Over in Windsor, the University of Windsor's CJAM is applying to move from 91.5 (where it runs 914 watts into a directional antenna) to 99.1, where it would run 456 watts, non-directional. (NERW thinks this move is tied in with the CBC's proposal to move Windsor's CBE from 1550 to two FM transmitters, one on 97.5 in Windsor and one on 91.9 in Leamington.)

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, ten and - where available - fifteen 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!)

February 11, 2008 -

  • Just short of its twentieth anniversary as NEW YORK's smooth jazz station, Emmis' WQCD (101.9) abruptly dropped the format on Tuesday afternoon (Feb. 5), playing short pre-recorded farewells from several "CD101.9" staffers before a 4 PM flip to WRXP, "101.9 RXP, the NY Rock Experience."
  • "Adult rock" is the company's official name for the new format, a broad-based music mix that draws from alternative rock, AAA and classic rock, with an obvious debt to the former WNEW-FM (102.7), and perhaps a less-obvious debt to at least some of the previous incarnations of 101.9 itself in its WPIX-FM days, especially its flirtation with New Wave music in the late seventies. WQCD PD Blake Lawrence is the only survivor from the old format, and he's promising to hire an airstaff that will actually have input into the music they play. So far, there's just one live jock on WRXP's air - Bryan Schock, in afternoons.
  • We've seen several rumored launch dates come and go (and indeed, the station's website still says "Coming January 2008"), but Mega Media says this morning will be the official launch of top 40 "Pulse 87" on the audio carrier of WNYZ-LP (Channel 6) in New York. The station's new morning show, with Star and Buc Wild, won't launch until next Monday on the station, which can be heard at 87.7, just below the FM dial.
  • Up in Rochester, the Brother Wease contract drama came to an abrupt end Thursday morning, when Entercom announced (on the air, during Wease's former morning show on WCMF 96.5) that it was unable to come to terms on a new contract for the veteran WCMF morning man. Despite rumors that Entercom might turn to a syndicated morning show to replace Wease, the company is sticking with the rest of his morning show cast for the moment. As of Friday, the former "Radio Free Wease" has become "The Men's Room," hosted by former Wease producer Bill Moran and sidekicks Tommy Mule and Sally Carpenter. Entercom says it will add additional talent to the show in the weeks to come.
  • As for Wease, he says legal concerns are forcing him to remain quiet for now (though he did make one brief on-air appearance Thursday, calling in to WHAM midday host Bob Lonsberry to thank him for his support), but he also says he'll be back on the air in Rochester in some form, and that he may be doing some off-air work in the meantime. (And we're hearing that Wease has been seen in the hallways of WHAM owner Clear Channel, as well as over at independently-owned urban outlet WDKX.)
  • Crawford Broadcasting exited the crowded field of religious radio stations in the Rochester market Saturday night as it signed off "102.7 the Light," WRCI (102.7 Webster), ending 15 years of Christian broadcasting on that frequency, originally WDCZ. The station returns to the air today as WLGZ-FM, "Legends," simulcasting with Crawford's WLGZ (990 Rochester) and adding oldies to the adult standards that have been heard on the AM side.
  • Pamal shuffled its lineup in central VERMONT on Friday, pulling the plug on AAA WEBK (105.3 Killington) after 16 years and replacing it with the "Cat Country" format that's been running on lower-powered WJEN (94.5 Rutland). Pamal had kept the AAA format running (most recently as "The Peak") ever since buying WEBK from original owner Dan Ewald seven years ago, but "it doesn't have the numbers," said Pamal GM Debbie Grembowicz in a Rutland Herald interview. After several weeks of simulcasting, the 94.5 signal will relaunch under new calls WDVT and an as-yet-undisclosed format. WEBK jocks "Uncle Dave" Tibbs and James Emmons will stay with Pamal after the transition.

February 9, 2004 -

  • Radio stations in two Northeast states are cleaning up this week after suffering some damaging fires. In western MASSACHUSETTS, Saga's WAQY (102.1 Springfield) was the victim of an apparent arson at its East Longmeadow studios on Thursday morning, when station staffers say they saw a man set a fire outside one of the building's windows, then flee the scene. Damage from that fire was minimal - less than $25,000 - but the Springfield Union-News reports the station is offering a $50,000 reward for information leading to a conviction.
  • One day earlier, in PENNSYLVANIA, an electrical fire struck the building on Domino Lane in Philadelphia's Roxborough section that's home to Clear Channel's WUSL (98.9) and WJJZ (106.1). Everyone inside the building escaped safely - even WJJZ PD Michael Tozzi, who had to be pulled from the building by his colleagues as the smoke got heavier - but the damage to the office portions of the building was pretty severe.
  • Up in northeastern Pennsylvania, Tunkhannock's WEMR (1460) and WCWY (107.7) changed hands last week from Citadel to GEOS Communications, which flipped them to a simulcast of soft AC WCOZ (103.9 Laporte). WEMR, which had been simulcasting "Cat Country" WCWI (94.3 Carbondale), is expected to stay with the "Cozy" simulcast, but WCWY, which had been simulcasting AC WMGS (92.9 Scranton), will get a new format of its own in a few weeks.
  • Over in Batavia, the Buffalo News reports that the sale of WBTA (1490) will close this week, bringing some changes at the little community-oriented full-service station. New owner Dan Fischer won't assume the lease at 438 E. Main Street, where WBTA has been since the seventies; instead, he'll move the station to a more visible location in the former W.T. Grant store at the corner of Main and Center streets.
  • CANADA's already a hotbed of stations named "Jack," "Bob," "Dave" and "Joe" - and now the original "Joe" (Corus' Edmonton outlet, recently upgraded from AM to FM) has a little brother in Kingston, Ontario. Corus abruptly pulled the plug on the longtime "Country 96" format at CFMK (96.3) on Friday, flipping the big signal to classic hits/hot AC as "96.3 Joe FM." CFMK's old website now points country listeners to the streaming audio of Corus country outlets in Hamilton, Calgary and elsewhere - but we suspect most country listeners in Kingston will flip over to cross-border WFGY (97.5 Watertown), at least for now.
  • But the end of one country station in Ontario was balanced, just hours later, by the start of another: Larche Communications' new "KICX Country" (CIKZ 99.5) launched Friday afternoon in Kitchener/Waterloo, bringing the format back to a market that hadn't had a local country station since 1991, when the old CKGL-FM (96.7) became AC CHYM-FM.

February 6, 1999 -

  • A 65 year radio tradition in MASSACHUSETTS' Merrimack Valley is nearing its end. Arnold Lerner's Merrimack Valley Wireless Talking Machine Company has agreed to sell WLLH (1400 Lowell/Lawrence) to Mega Broadcasting for a reported $936,000. By early March, WLLH will drop its adult standards format (and leased-time ethnic nights and weekends) for a Spanish dance format, to be run in conjunction with Mega's WBPS (890 Dedham) and WNFT (1150 Boston).
  • Local English-language radio in the valley has been disappearing at a rapid clip in the last few years. The FMs in Lowell (99.5, ex-WLLH-FM, WSSH, WOAZ, and now WKLB-FM) and Lawrence (93.7, ex-WGHJ, WCCM-FM, WCGY, and now WEGQ) have been operating from Boston studios and aimed at Boston audiences for most of the 90s; Haverhill's WXRV (92.5) still operates from the old WHAV studios on How Street but targets a much broader audience; and WHAV (1490 Haverhil) and WNNW (1110 Salem) are running Spanish-language formats under the ownership of Costa-Eagle, which also runs mostly-English WCCM (800 Lawrence). That leaves WLLH, with its synchronous transmitters in Lowell and Lawrence, and WCAP (980 Lowell) -- and soon, just WCAP, which is likely to keep going with its talk format and resist all purchase offers as long as founder Maurice Cohen lives.
  • The radio scene out in Southbridge is changing fast. On the FM side, WQVR (100.1) turned off its transmitter this week in preparation for a transmitter move and ownership change. The new site will put a better signal into Worcester and, we're told, come with a new format as well. There's a new format on WQVR's former AM sister station, WESO (970). PD Bruce Marshall checked in to report that WESO has switched from satellite standards to Jones' Good Times Oldies format, with a local morning show featuring Tony Powers, Marshall, and Ann Renda (formerly at WTAG). There's also a trading post show weekdays from 9-10 AM and a Saturday talk block. And while we're in Central Massachusetts, we'll note that WORC-FM (98.9) has been granted a city of license change from Webster to Spencer. Funny how the station's stated intention of "eliminating short-spacing to WPLR and WPLM-FM" also ends up putting it much closer to Worcester...
  • Cape Cod needs another FM allocation the way Howard Stern needs another FCC complaint...but where there's an open frequency there's sure to be an applicant or two, so the FCC added a class A allocation to Brewster this week at the request of the "Brewster Broadcasting Company" and Ernie Boch. The 94.3 channel was made possible by Boch's WXTK frequency change (to 95.1 from 94.9) last year -- and it's another case where the FCC was able to convince itself that Brewster had no "local broadcast service" even though it sits right on the edge of one of the most over-radioed markets, on a per-capita basis, in the country. Oh yeah, it's also home to the main studio of one station (WFCC) and transmitters of two (WFCC and WYST), not that that matters. Have we mentioned lately that we think the allocation rules need to be revised?
  • Two station sales this week in RHODE ISLAND: Keating Willcox becomes a duopoly owner in Woonsocket with the purchase of WNRI (1380), just a year after he bought WOON (1240). And Boston's Charles River Broadcasting is making an Ocean State move with the $738,000 purchase of WVBI (95.9 Block Island) from Tim English. Like Charles River's WCRB (102.5 Waltham) and WFCC (107.5 Chatham), WVBI is a classical station -- but until now, one with a limited schedule and extremely limited signal (NERW had trouble hearing them the one time we were on Block Island!). We expect Rob Landry and the rest of the 'CRB engineering team will have 95.9 reaching out much better soon.
  • The big story in NEW YORK is the sorta-format change at WPLJ (95.5 New York). The only staffers still remaining at the Disney outlet are the morning team of PD Scott Shannon and Todd Pettengill, and overnighter Dave Stewart. Everyone else was swept out with the change to mainstream hot AC and "New York's Hit Music Station," according to the trades...except for afternoon guy Rocky Allen, who's settling in to his new spot across the hall at WABC (770).
  • Up across the border, Toronto's CISS (92.5) has been sold by Rawlco to Rogers, and promptly changed format late Friday (2/5) from country to CHR as "Power 92." Rogers also owns CFTR (680) and CHFI (98.1) in Toronto. NERW thinks this'll make it much easier for us to figure out which 92.5 we're hearing as we drive between Buffalo and Rochester, where the short-spaced allotments in Toronto and Rochester (WBEE-FM) clash noisily, and until now, both with country music.

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