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February 16, 2009

Analog TV Stays In The Picture*

*...unless you're in Providence, Scranton or Burlington*

* least until the FCC changes its mind again

TUESDAY NIGHT LAST-SECOND UPDATE: With just hours left to go before the (original) deadline for analog TV to sign off, here's the latest news we've gathered from TV stations across the region:

In New Hampshire, NHPTV's WENH signed off its analog channel 11 transmitter sometime Tuesday morning, replacing it with the new WENH-DT on 11 (and turning off the interim WENH-DT on 57.)

In Providence, we're told a Japanese news crew (!) will be on hand at midnight when the plug is pulled on WPRI's analog channel 12 signal; meanwhile, WLNE (6/ABC) will be running "enhanced nightlight" service for two months, with local newscasts in addition to the loops of DTV transition information.

In Springfield, WWLP (22/NBC) goes to nightlight operation at 11:35 Tuesday night.

In Albany, WXXA (23/Fox) pulled back its request to shut down analog, and will stay on for now; WNYT (13/NBC) will be reducing its power to 50% in a few weeks, to alleviate interference to WNYT-DT on 12.

In Utica, it'll be a no-frills midnight shutdown of analog at WKTV (2/NBC), where engineers and the rest of the station staff have been busy running a phone bank at a local hotel to help viewers adapt to the transition.

Sinclair will be running nightlight service on its upstate stations - Syracuse's WSYT (68/Fox), Rochester's WUHF (31/Fox) and Buffalo's WUTV (29/Fox) - for two weeks, which means we'll have to mark down the night of March 3 to watch our first local analog turn off its transmitter.

In Elmira, WYDC (48/Fox) quietly flash-cut to digital on that channel a couple of weeks ago, silencing WYDC-DT's transitional channel 50 signal in the process, and making the market an even more confusing mix of analog-only (WENY 36), analog-and-very-low-power-digital (WETM 18) and DTV-only (WYDC and WSKA-30).

In Binghamton, WBNG will go "enhanced nightlight" on its analog channel 12 signal.

In Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, we're still not seeing any indication of any nightlight operation, which leads us to think the FCC might not be aware that Fox affiliate WOLF-TV (56) has already ended its analog operation; the station has appeared as still on the air in the FCC's latest database dumps.

In Johnstown/Altoona, WWCP (8/Fox) and WATM (23/ABC) made their cutovers to all-digital operation during the day on Tuesday.

*Once upon a time - say, two weeks ago - it all seemed so simple: on one coordinated date, publicized several years in advance with wall-to-wall announcements, every full-power TV station in the U.S. would shut off its analog transmitter, allowing every full-power TV station in the U.S. to maximize its digital signal on its final allocation, and more or less forcing procrastinating viewers (of whom there are many out there!) to pay attention to the transition and take whatever steps they need to take to continue to watch TV.

Then Congress showed up to help...and now that massively-publicized "February 17, 2009" analog-shutoff date has become one big "never mind" for viewers in most markets around the country, leaving them free to conclude that the new "absolutely final" date of June 12 will probably slip, too - and leaving thousands of stations on the hook for unbudgeted analog power bills and scheduled tower crews that won't be able to move antennas to maximize digital service as planned.

Even the markets that took Congress at its word about the new June 12 date being optional found out the hard way that the FCC, at the direction of Capitol Hill, wasn't looking kindly at any plans that would have left entire markets digital-only come Wednesday morning.

In all, 491 stations nationwide notified the FCC that they intended to stick to the February 17 shutoff date, and the Commission flagged 123 of those stations for further scrutiny, at which point 43 of those stations decided to stay on after all, while 10 more were placed under further review.

(Keep in mind that the FCC didn't finalize that list until late Friday night, just four days before the original Feb. 17 deadline, and that today is a federal holiday when Commission offices are supposed to be closed...)

The result was plenty of confusion, not only for viewers but even for those in the industry, who were having a hard time making sense of the welter of last-minute FCC releases and the often-contradictory announcements coming from stations themselves, where a "February 17" announcement was often likely to be followed by another with "June 12," and where individual stations' decisions were likely as not to be trumped by group-wide decisions to stay in analog (Hearst-Argyle, for instance) or to go digital-only (Sinclair), or to change at the last moment based on what everyone else in the market decided to do.

We've done our best to sort through the morass (with huge thanks to NERW research director Garrett Wollman and to Trip Ericson's invaluable, and as best we can tell, from northeast to southwest, here's how things will shake out across NERW-land come midnight Tuesday:

  • In Presque Isle, Maine, MPBN's WMEM (10) is already DTV-only; WAGM (8/CBS) will stay on in analog through June.
  • In Bangor, Maine, WVII (7/ABC) will sign off analog on Tuesday, joining MPBN's WMEB-TV (12), which already went digital-only.
  • In Portland, Maine, Tuesday will bring analog sign-offs at Sinclair's WGME (13/CBS) and at WPFO (23/Fox), which will get to flash-cut on 23 and sign on WPFO-DT for the first time.
  • In New Hampshire, WMUR (9/ABC) will keep its analog (and its interim WMUR-DT 59) on the air through June, but Telemundo's WNEU (60) will go dark on analog, as (apparently) will New Hampshire Public TV's three full-power transmitters, WENH (11) in Durham, WLED (49) Littleton and WEKW (52) Keene.
  • Burlington, Vermont is one of a handful of markets nationwide that really will get to go all-digital on Tuesday, thanks to the hastily-conceived "enhanced nightlight" provision that the FCC threw together late last week. Two stations - WCAX (3/CBS) and Hearst-Argyle's WPTZ (5/NBC) - will leave their analog signals on for at least 60 days past Tuesday, carrying not only the "nightlight" loop of DTV transition information but also local news and any emergency information that might need to be broadcast. The state's other stations (including Hearst-Argyle's WPTZ satellite, WNNE 31 White River Junction) will all end analog operation on Tuesday for good - and WCAX-DT will get to move from its temporary channel 53 to channel 22, formerly occupied by WVNY's analog signal.
  • In Boston, only Multicultural's WMFP (62) leaves the analog airwaves Tuesday; remarkably, Fox's WFXT (25) continues to maintain the pretense that it's putting out an analog signal, notwithstanding that the minimal amount of RF leaving its transmitter all apparently gets reflected right back in and never makes it to the antenna. (But we digress...)
  • Providence is another market that will be going essentially DTV-only on Tuesday, in part to allow some heavy-duty juggling of channels: LIN's WPRI (12/CBS) has to shut down its analog operation so that sister station WNAC (64/Fox) can move its transitional digital signal from 54 to 12; meanwhile, Media General's WJAR (10/NBC) has to vacate its analog channel so that Boston-market ShopNBC affiliate WWDP can restore its digital signal (it replaced its transitional channel 52 antenna with a channel 10 antenna over the winter, but couldn't activate the new WWDP-DT while WJAR analog remained on the air.) There will be "enhanced nightlight" operation in Providence, courtesy of WNAC, which will keep its channel 64 signal going for a few weeks.
  • In Hartford/New Haven, only two signals - ion's WHPX (26) and Entravision's WUVN (18/Univision) apparently still plan to go digital-only on Tuesday - but up the road in Springfield, the situation is entirely reversed: with two analog signals, WGGB (40/ABC) and WGBY (57/PBS) already gone, LIN's WWLP (22/NBC), the last remaining full-power analog in the market, will end its regular analog operation Tuesday as well, leaving an "enhanced nightlight" on the air for a few weeks and then clearing 22 so that WGBY-DT can move there from its transitional spot on 58.
  • With the network owned-and-operated signals making up five of the market's seven VHF signals, it was pretty much a given that most of the remaining New York City signals would follow their lead and remain on the air through June. Four smaller UHF signals - WSAH (43), WTBY (54/TBN), WLNY (55) and WRNN (62) had already ended their analog operations, and only Connecticut Public TV's WEDW-TV (49), along with WMBC (63) and WFME-TV (66), will join them on Tuesday.
  • In Albany, ion's WYPX (55) already went digital-only, and only Newport's WXXA-TV (23/Fox) will follow suit Tuesday, leaving everyone else operating two transmitters until June (including Freedom's CBS affiliate WRGB, which already has a digital channel 6 transmitter ready to go at the market's new master DTV transmission facility.)
  • In Utica, Smith's WKTV (2/NBC) will sign off analog Tuesday, but Nexstar's WUTR (20/ABC) and WFXV (33/Fox) will stick it out until June.
  • In Syracuse, only Sinclair's WSYT (68/Fox) and WNYS (43/My) will take analog dark on Tuesday.
  • In Watertown, WWNY (7/CBS) will pull the plug on analog Tuesday, allowing it to move WWNY-DT from its temporary channel 35 down to 7; Newport's WWTI (50/ABC) withdrew its plan to go DTV-only, joining public broadcaster WPBS-TV (16)/WNPE (18) in staying on in analog through June.
  • Only Sinclair's WUHF (31/Fox) will go DTV-only in Rochester Tuesday, meaning area viewers will be subjected to four more months of your editor's "DTV Minutes" on public broadcaster WXXI...
  • Just one Buffalo signal will go DTV-only Tuesday - Sinclair's WUTV (29/Fox).
  • The over-the-air DTV picture in Elmira remains hazy; the delay in the transition date means Newport's WETM (18/NBC) will continue its low-power transitional digital operation on channel 2 while the analog stays on through June. Over at Lilly's WENY (36/ABC), the analog signal - running at extremely low power after a transmitter fire two years ago - will stay on past Tuesday, but could go off before June if WENY-DT's new channel 36 signal, at a different site, is ready for air before then. Meanwhile, public broadcaster WSKA (30) signed on as a DTV-only signal a couple of years ago, and WYDC (48/Fox) will keep its analog on through June.
  • In Binghamton, WICZ (40/Fox) and Newport's WIVT (34/ABC) withdrew their plans to go DTV-only on Tuesday, but Granite's WBNG (12/CBS) still plans to make the flip, having suffered a failure that's left it running at reduced analog power from a backup transmitter. (The delay is bad news for ABC and NBC viewers, since WIVT-DT will remain at low power on transitional channel 4 until it can go full-power on 34 once the analog signal goes off.)
  • In Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, the shutdown Monday night will proceed on schedule, with only ion's WQPX (64) remaining on the air in analog. There's no indication, from anything we've seen, that any of the Scranton stations will even be running nightlight operation.
  • With the network O&O stations leading the way, the Philadelphia market keeps most of its analog signals on the air through June - even poor WHYY, the public station whose DTV operation was bumped from its original transitional channel 55 down to a very directional, low-power channel 50 while it awaits occupancy of WHYY's current analog channel, 12. Only outlying NBC affiliate WMGM (40) in south Jersey will go digital-only Tuesday.
  • In Harrisburg, only two stations will make the flip to digital-only on Tuesday: Nexstar's WLYH (15/CW) and public station WITF (33).
  • Two stations in Johnstown/Altoona plan to go digital-only on Tuesday: WWCP (8/Fox) and WATM (23/ABC), while Cornerstone's WKBS (47) hopes to make the switch in March.
  • In Erie, the situation remains muddled: WQLN (54/PBS) is already DTV-only after a failure of its analog transmission line last year, and WSEE (35/CBS) will join it as a DTV-only signal Tuesday. But WJET (24/ABC), which has been operating a low-power DTV signal on 58, will stay on 24 in analog until at least April, at which point it will flash-cut to full-power digital on 24. WFXP (66/Fox) and WICU (12/NBC) will stay on in analog until June, which is problematic for would-be NBC DTV viewers, who can either try to see the very low-power transitional WICU-DT on 52, wait for WICU-DT to go full-power on 12, or watch a standard-def WICU simulcast on a subchannel of WSEE-DT.
  • And in Pittsburgh, only Sinclair's WPGH (53/Fox) and WPMY (22/My) and ShopNBC outlet WQEX (16) will go DTV-only on Tuesday. Cornerstone's WPCB (40) wants to make its switch March 17, while PBS outlet WQED (13) will stay on in analog until April 1, through its March membership drive. Once WQED turns off the analog, WQED-DT can move from 38 to 13, while WQEX-DT moves from 26 to 38 with more power.

And of course any and all of these decisions are still at least somewhat subject to change between now and 11:59 PM on stay tuned! (Which reminds us - if you're an engineer who'll be pulling the plug on an analog transmitter Tuesday, we'd love to see a picture of the big moment, and if you're a viewer, we'd love to see video of your analogs going silent for good...)

*One of the most challenging tower-site construction projects in the country is finally nearing completion in eastern MASSACHUSETTS, where Beasley's WRCA (1330 Watertown) and Clear Channel's WKOX (1200 Newton) have filed for licenses to cover their new signals from the site in Newton's Oak Hill neighborhood that they share with Champion Broadcasting's WUNR (1600 Brookline).

It's been more than eight years since the planning began to replace WUNR's old two-tower array with five shorter towers to be shared by the three stations, and almost three years since the stations overcame massive neighborhood NIMBY objections and began construction on the site.

Now the work is substantially complete, and for the last few months WKOX and WRCA have been operating from the Oak Hill site with the same power levels (10 kW/1 kW and 5 kW, respectively) that they were using from their old sites in Framingham and Waltham. Within days, they're expected to power up to their new levels of 50 kW fulltime (WKOX) and 25 kW/17 kW (WRCA), and WUNR should soon follow suit with a power increase from 5 kW to 20 kW.

And yes - we'll have a full tour of the new site coming up soon on Tower Site of the Week.

*It's not directly connected to WKOX's move, as best we can tell, but the "Rumba" Spanish tropical format that had been simulcast on WKOX and Clear Channel sister station WXKS (1430 Everett) is being heard only on WKOX for the next few weeks, while 1430's being leased out for an unusual sort of infomercial.

What the heck is the "Automatic Radio" being heard on 1430 at the moment? It's a continuous loop of the new album "Low Expectations" by the local band Ernie and the Automatics - and it's appearing non-stop on 1430 because "Ernie" is none other than car dealer Ernie Boch, Jr., who may well be the single most prolific buyer of radio ad time in New England. (He's got legitimate musical chops, too - he graduated from Berklee College of Music, and his band includes two original members of the band Boston.)

This isn't the first time Clear Channel has yielded up an entire station to a car dealer - we're thinking of the stunt a couple of years ago that turned a Rochester FM signal into "Huge Radio" - but it may well be the first time an entire radio station has been turned over to the promotion of a single album. We're told "Automatic Radio" will continue on 1430 until March 2, at which point "Rumba" is expected to return to simulcast mode.

Over at CBS Radio, longtime WBZ (1030)/WODS (103.3) general manager Ted Jordan is stepping down after 13 years with the station and 34 years with Westinghouse/Infinity/CBS. Jordan came to WBZ in 1996 from KDKA in Pittsburgh and picked up GM duties at WODS in 1997 when the oldies station moved in with WBZ at Soldiers Field Road. The WODS GM duties will now go to WZLX (100.7) GM Barbara Jean Scannell, while market manager Mark Hannon adds WBZ GM duties to his GM role at WBCN/WBMX.

A few more WBZ notes: the news/talk station's audio is now being heard on an FM HD subchannel. Now that WODS has added HD service, it has WBZ on its HD-3 and a soft AC format called "The Cove" on HD-2. And a staple of WBZ's programming for many years may be moving elsewhere: the Globe reports that the station is allowing the Boston Bruins to negotiate with other broadcasters for the rights to hockey coverage when WBZ's contract runs out after this season. WBZ has carried the Bruins since 1995 under its current deal, and also carried Bruins games on and off from 1925 until 1978.

And from the tabloids, we catch up with Michael Graham, mid-morning talk host at WTKK (96.9 Boston), Herald columnist - and apparently the holder of a driver's license that was revoked after Graham moved to Massachusetts from Virginia four years ago without cancelling his insurance back there.

We know this because Graham ended up handcuffed and under arrest early Friday morning when Framingham police caught him making a U-turn at a red light on Route 9 - a situation Graham discussed at length later in the morning on his WTKK show, which was apparently largely devoted to an attempt to blame the whole mess on Registry of Motor Vehicles officials, for failing to notify him about the license revocation. (The Registry says it did send Graham a letter.)


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Just click on the banner above to visit's NERW's 13th annual Year in Review, brought to you this year by these nice folks:

*NEW YORK's WPLJ (95.5) is adding the syndicated Billy Bush show to its evening lineup. Bush will be heard from 9 PM-midnight on weeknights, and he'll contribute customized segments to the Scott & Todd morning show as well.

Up in the executive suite, Mitch Dolan is out as president of Citadel's major market radio group, exiting the post he first held when those stations were ABC's radio group. (Dolan also held the title of president and GM of WPLJ.) Steve Borneman, president/GM down the hall at WABC (770), adds those duties for WPLJ with Dolan's departure.

*Buffalo has always been a good town for radio news, and even if the news staffs are smaller these days, they still had a chance to shine Thursday night when that commuter plane slammed into a house in Clarence Center. It's a credit to the professionals there - and in the neighboring Rochester market, too - that they rose to the occasion, and then some. Entercom's WBEN (930) is the only commercial radio newsroom of any significant size in the Buffalo market, and its staffers stayed on the air with local news and information all night long on Thursday and all day on Friday, blowing out the station's syndicated program to continue taking calls from listeners. Buffalo's two public newsrooms - WBFO (88.7) and WNED (970) - offered overnight updates and all-day coverage as well.

On TV, NBC affiliate WGRZ (Channel 2) and CBS affiliate WIVB (Channel 4) were largely up to the challenge, more so than at ABC affiliate WKBW (Channel 7), where a series of recent budget cuts left the station so understaffed that, in the words of one staffer, "we simply don't have the people to compete." WGRZ took particular advantage of its Gannett corporate connections to use extra staff from Cleveland's WKYC - and from the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. In this brave new world of media convergence, the Rochester newspaper and the Buffalo TV station shared not only text on their websites, but also video. (Yes, it's still odd to see a "" mike flag amidst the sea of TV and radio mikes on the table at news conferences.)

With no local newsroom at Sinclair's Fox affiliate, WUTV (Channel 29), the network was forced to turn to Toronto's Global TV for much of its early coverage on Fox News Channel and its New York station, WNYW. (The nearest dedicated Fox-affiliate newsroom is in Cleveland at WJW, which did send a crew Friday.) Even though the flight originated at Newark Airport, only two New York City TV stations - WABC-TV and WCBS-TV - sent reporters to Buffalo, and WABC in particular really hustled, getting reporter Sarah Wallace on the scene in Clarence at 5 AM Friday, less than seven hours after the plane crashed.

Speaking of network coverage, problems with satellite uplinks at WGRZ led NBC to use reporters from Rochester's WHEC (Channel 10) for on-scene reports during Friday's "Today" show, giving Catherine Varnum some prime national exposure. On the radio side, we suspect Clear Channel's WHAM (1180) dearly missed the aviation knowledge of longtime morning anchor Bill Lowe, one of the victims of last month's deep budget cuts; Lowe, who's been a pilot for decades, was heard by phone on WHAM-TV (Channel 13), lending his expertise there. Public station WXXI (1370) was on the scene as well, helping to feed other NPR outlets statewide.

(Usual disclaimer: your editor toils in Rochester radio news at WXXI, but was out of action with a cold on Friday. And a quick bit of editorial rant: it's "BREAKING NEWS," complete with big red graphics, in the first few hours after the plane goes down - but at least to these eyes, that sort of on-air TV puffery gets very stale very fast...)

*There's a new chapter in the long-running soap opera that is Hornell radio: Bilbat Radio LLC has filed an application with the FCC to sell WKPQ (105.3) to Phoenix Radio Group (PRG LLC) for $600,000. If you've been following this saga for the last few years, you'll note that one of PRG's owners is Terry Gilles, who bought the real property of WKPQ and sister station WHHO (1320) in a foreclosure sale in 2007 - and that PRG has been operating WKPQ and WHHO under an LMA with Bilbat, which has continued to hold the licenses and will apparently continue to hold the WHHO license for the moment.

Interestingly, the "Eye on Hornell Radio" blog that has been carefully chronicling every chapter in this story for the last few years - and has been publishing a Q&A series explaining how surviving Bilbat founder Bill Berry apparently lost control of the stations - has vanished from the web. (Perhaps its anonymous creator, who's known to be a NERW reader, will check in with an explanation - we're happy to protect his/her identity...)

Up in the Watertown market, "Real Rock" has a new address. Last Monday, Community Broadcasters moved the format from WOTT (100.7 Henderson) to the newly-debuted WEFX (94.1 Calcium), which has a better signal over Watertown - and then swapped calls, putting WEFX on 100.7, where it launched at noon Wednesday with classic hits as "The Fox."

Some very big shoes are being filled in central New York public radio, where WRVO (89.9 Oswego) has finally chosen a replacement for veteran "Morning Edition" host John Hurlbutt. He announced his retirement last year after 30 years on morning duty, but agreed to stay on for a few more months while the station found a successor. That's Jason Smith, who's been producing the show for the last year or so after moving to WRVO from WSYR.

Where are they now? reports former Syracuse/Utica jock Nick Caplan is now doing mornings in the Berkshires at WUPE-FM (100.1 North Adams MA)/WUPE (1110 Pittsfield MA), where he's working with former Utica colleague Stew Schantz, now WUPE's PD.

CNYRadio also reports the end of an era in Syracuse: the historic WFBL Building on South Warren Street is now targeted for demolition after efforts to preserve the building - or at least its Art Deco facade - have failed. The building has been vacant for years, and the city of Syracuse has now dropped its efforts to keep owner Tom Quartier from demolishing it and replacing it with (sigh) a parking lot.

Speaking of WFBL, its current incarnation - the Buckley-owned oldies station on 1390 - has cut the local morning show hosted by market veteran Bob Brown. CNYRadio says Brown is still being used as a fill-in at WFBL and sister station WSEN, but WFBL's morning shift is now being handled from Hartford, Connecticut by Floyd Wright, who's the midday guy at Buckley's WDRC-FM.

Brown wasn't the only central New York jock out of work last week. At Citadel, middayer Alexis is out at WAQX (95.7 Manlius), with no permanent replacement announced for the shift at "95X," while down in the Ithaca market, Saga is turning to Dial Global's satellite service for most of the day at classic rock WIII (99.9 Cortland). PD/morning man Mark Vanness and afternoon jock Paul Hansom are both out, leaving only morning co-host Kat Walters (now solo) as local talent on "I100."

There are cuts to report in the Hudson Valley, too: Cumulus cut WFAS-FM (103.9 Bronxville) middayer Mary DaSilva, replacing her with the syndicated John Tesh show. And across the state line in CONNECTICUT, there were indeed cuts at Cumulus' Danbury-based cluster, claiming the jobs of WDBY (105.5 Patterson NY) production director Tony Wise and WRKI (95.1 Brookfield) morning newscaster Lisa Harris. It appears that the overall nationwide cuts at Cumulus amounted to 7% of the company's workforce.

In Schenectady, Ernie Anastos' WVKZ (1240) has signed on with ABC's "True Oldies Channel," replacing the locally-programmed offbeat oldies format it had been airing.

More "Where are they now?": Bryan Schock, who spent the last year as music director and afternoon guy at WRXP (101.9) in New York, is back home in southern California - and back at Clear Channel's KGB (101.5) in San Diego, where he's...the music director and afternoon guy.

Out on Long Island, the FCC appears to have had second thoughts about assigning a "K" callsign to a new religious FM. Community Bible Church's new 90.7 in Napeague had appeared in FCC records as KCBE, but all evidence of that assignment has vanished from the station's callsign history, and it's now listed instead as WEGB.

And we've been remiss in not noting the passing of Kenny Youngs, who hosted the "Afternoon Jamboree" on WBRV-FM (101.3 Boonville)/WLLG (99.3 Lowville) from 1982 until last fall. Youngs had a long career before that in central New York radio, including many years at WADR in Remsen. He died Jan. 24 in Boonville, at age 83.

(A reminder, incidentally - we're indebted to our readers for helping us to keep track of all the people and stations in the wide region we cover every week. Hard as we try, we can't be everywhere all the time, so if there's a news story you think we're missing, please drop us a line at scott at fybush dot com. Thanks!)

*In southern NEW HAMPSHIRE, the Nashua Telegraph is reporting that a local developer hopes to return WSMN (1590) to its old studio building at 502 West Hollis Street. WSMN made its home in that old house from its 1958 debut until February 2005, when the station lost its lease on the property and went silent.

WSMN later returned to the air at low power from the tower and studios of Nashua's WSNH (900, now WGHM). The three-tower directional array at the old West Hollis site was subsequently dismantled, and in May 2005 we reported that the Nashua Fire Department was using the old WSMN building for smoke-training practice, with plans to burn it to the ground so a developer could put up 40 condominiums on the site.

Developer John Picard went bankrupt trying to build those condos, getting only as far as tearing up the 12-acre property without actually building anything, and now he's asking the city to approve a revised plan that will include three 36-unit apartment buildings, underground parking, and a renovated WSMN building.

The station, which has been operating at low power under special temporary authority since 2005, would return to 5,000 watts from three new towers behind the J-Don convenience store down the street.

WSMN owner Tom Monahan tells the paper he approached Picard with the idea to move the station back to its original home - but the Telegraph notes there are obstacles to be overcome, including $100,000 in back taxes Picard owes to the city.

*There were fewer obstacles when it came to moving WCFR (1480) in Springfield, VERMONT to new studios: the station suffered flooding at its storefront studios on Main Street, and now it's moved upstairs and around the corner to new second-floor digs in a former law office at 18 Park Street. (More good news from WCFR: it's now being heard at 106.5 FM via translator W293BH.)

Another Green Mountain State move: Vox has applied to move WMXR (93.9 Woodstock) from its present Hartland Hill site just southeast of Woodstock to the Hurricane Hill site near White River Junction that's already home to Nassau's WWOD (104.3 Hartford) and several translators. WMXR would remain a class A signal, but with 3.5 kW/427' DA instead of its present 666 watts/683' from the Woodstock site.

*EMF's "K-Love" has added another signal in MAINE: as of last Wednesday, it's now being heard on WFZX (101.7 Searsport), simulcasting WGUY (102.1 Dexter).


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Our business manager (aka Mrs. Fybush) says we're heading for another sellout, so don't sit around waiting for a clearance sale that won't be happening.

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*The weak economy has scotched a station sale in northern PENNSYLVANIA. Cary Simpson's Farm and Home Broadcasting was to have sold WFRM-FM (96.7 Coudersport) to Backyard Broadcasting, which planned to move the station to Portville, N.Y., in the nearby Olean market. The station is once again listed with Pittsburgh broker Ray Rosenblum for sale, at a reported $325,000.

In Meadville, a high-powered unlicensed signal at 88.3 is getting some attention. It's been on the air for more than a decade, broadcasting the tinfoil-hattery that emanates from the Genesis Communications Network (where they're still stocking up on gold just in case Y2K turns out even worse than they feared), and now the station's proprietor is out of prison and ready to turn up the juice again. Darrell Sivik went behind bars in 2005 after pleading guilty to weapons charges; now that he's free, he's promising to get behind the mike to again host local shows on his "Braveheart Radio," which a friend had been operating at reduced power in his absence.

Before we leave northwestern Pennsylvania, there are now call letters for Calvary Chapel of Russell's new 90.5 signal in Bradford - it will be WTWT.

In Pittsburgh, reports the passing of Jerry Wayne Summers, whose career included production jobs in Buffalo before he came to Keymarket's "Froggy" country stations six years ago as production director. Summers was just 54 when he died Feb. 6 of complications from lupus.

Moving to south central Pennsylvania, an AM signal is officially moving its city of license across the state line: WHGT (1590) has been granted a construction permit to move from Chambersburg, where it was the old WCBG before that transmitter site was taken by eminent domain for construction of a new water tower, to Maugansville, Maryland, near Hagerstown. That's where the station's new owner, WHGT Christian Radio, is based - and it's where 1590 has been operating under special temporary authority at low power. When WHGT builds out its new facilities, it will be running 15 kW days and 58 watts at night into a two-tower array just west of Greencastle, Pennsylvania, which means we'll still be covering it from time to time (as, no doubt, will our colleague Dave Hughes to the south at

And we send our best wishes for a speedy recovery to the voice of the World Champion Phillies, Harry Kalas, who's missing most of spring training as he recovers from surgery. Phils TV announcer Tom McCarthy will pinch-hit for Kalas on WPHT and the rest of the Phillies radio network until he's able to return.

*A prominent pirate in Newark, NEW JERSEY is in the FCC's sights: Afi A. Johnson was served with a Notice of Unlicensed Operation after FCC field agents tuned in to "Streetz 96," which has been operating rather openly on 96.5 for quite a while now, complete with a sales force, and just 200 kHz up the dial from WQXR-FM (96.3) right across the river in New York City. Agents tracked the signal to the Prospect Towers in East Orange - and we'd note that "Streetz" has been very well-heard on the Jersey side of the river in recent years from that location.

Down the shore, Mike Ruble has been named market manager for Millennium's Atlantic City cluster, where he'd been sales manager. Meanwhile, former WOBM-FM (92.7 Toms River) morning men Kevin Williams and Steve Paul have reunited in the afternoon slot on sister station WOBM (1160 Lakewood Township). Over at WOBM-FM, PD Steve Ardolina moves from afternoons to middays, with Joe Keating moving into afternoon drive.

And there's another new set of calls in the Garden State: mark down WLNJ for 91.7 in Lakehurst, the new sister station to WYRS (90.7 Manahawkin).

Edited by NERW's own Scott Fybush - on sale now as an e-book or printed volume!

*In CANADA, the CRTC has revisited its increasingly irrelevant regulations that prevented FM stations from running oldies or classic hits formats, easing the rules for stations anywhere outside the Ottawa and Montreal radio markets.

Some background here: as FM began to gain popularity in the mid-seventies, the CRTC adopted a policy in 1975 that restricted FM stations from devoting more than 50% of their airtime to songs designated as "hits," based on several top-40 charts. The result at the time was to ensure that top-40 formats would be heard only on the AM dial, and for a decade or so, the policy worked - top-40 AM radio continued to thrive in Canadian markets long after the format had moved entirely to FM south of the border.

By 1997, though, even the "hits" policy wasn't enough to keep AM top-40 radio alive in Canada, and the CRTC revised the policy to define a "hit" only as a song that made one or more of the charts prior to 1981. That cleared the way for top-40 to arrive on the FM dial, but left oldies as the exclusive province of AM stations.

Another decade later, even oldies on AM had begun to fade - the CRTC estimates that only 20 of 150 English-language AM stations remaining in Canada are playing oldies, and it had already approved exemptions allowing a handful of oldies stations to migrate from AM to FM - and so the commission once again reviewed the policy.

In a decision released last week, the CRTC lifted the "hits" restriction from FM stations everywhere except Ottawa and Montreal, where it has long enforced a separate policy meant to protect French-language broadcasters from English-language competition. So for FM broadcasters in those two markets, the original version of the "hits" rule remains in place, essentially preventing them from playing the music most popular with their audiences.

(It gets even worse: as John Mielke's Milkman UnLimited notes, the new rules add several more charts to determine what songs are "hits," including one based on country-music airplay monitoring, which means that Ottawa-market country station CKBY 101.1 ends up in a feedback loop whereby any time it plays any song, that airplay is monitored and those songs end up moving up the "hits" chart.)

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 18, 2008 -

  • Make a list of the most memorable voices in the history of Boston morning radio, and a few names are bound to be at the top. There's the roster of legends at WBZ - de Suze, Maynard and Lapierre - and several greats from the FM era, such as Laquidara and Siegel. But at or near the top of that list, for anyone who listened to the radio in eastern MASSACHUSETTS between the late fifties and early nineties, would be the name of Jess Cain, who died Thursday morning at his Back Bay home.
  • A World War II veteran, the Philadelphia native turned to acting after the war, then took a job teaching communications at Notre Dame University before moving to Boston in the mid-fifties with his colleague Jack Hynes. Cain was the morning man at Boston's WHDH (850) from 1957 until 1991, a remarkable run that spanned multiple owners and multiple formats. Along the way, he contributed characters like Sidney Flack and Hap Smiley to the lexicon, as well as tunes such as "Fly Me to Methuen" (to the tune of "Fly Me to the Moon") and the immortal "Yaz Song" that was one of the theme songs for the "Impossible Dream" season in 1967.
  • In addition to his radio career, Cain returned in later years to the stage, taking part in amateur theater productions until the last few years, when his illnesses began to take a toll. It's arguable that Cain never received the honors he deserved, in part because WHDH radio ceased to exist not long after his retirement. (Its successor at the 850 spot on the dial, WEEI, aired the "Yaz Song" in Cain's memory Thursday, and over at WBZ, Jordan Rich devoted an hour of his show Friday to Cain.)
  • In other Boston news, it turned out CBS Radio wasn't done cutting jobs in the Hub even after the axe had swung in most of its other markets. In all, we're told there are now 15 or so fewer jobs at CBS' Boston stations. Among the positions cut was that of WBZ assistant news director Paul Connearney, who'd been at the station since the 1991 demise of his previous employer, all-news WEEI (590). WBZ also lost one IT position, while over at WBCN (104.1) overnighter "Juanita the Scene Queen" was moved off that shift to part-time weekend status. And at WODS (103.3), Patrick Callahan lost his spot on the jock roster, with JJ Wright moving from overnights to Callahan's former night slot.
  • One of NEW YORK's more obscure spots on the FM dial is about to get an injection of new programming ideas from the opposite coast. WNYE (91.5), which has programmed a mixture of overflow NPR talk programming and ethnic shows for the last few years, has signed a deal with Seattle's KEXP (90.3) to provide it with music programming. KEXP, which is licensed to the University of Washington but operated as an independent alternative music voice (with funding from Microsoft founder Paul Allen, among others) will supply WNYE with a three-hour weekday morning show customized for the New York market, followed at 9 AM by a three-hour simulcast of KEXP's Seattle morning show, as well as several weekly specialty shows.
  • Two veteran PENNSYLVANIA radio newspeople are taking voluntary retirements as part of CBS Radio's cutbacks. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that 37-year KYW (1060 Philadelphia) veteran Don Lancer, the station's business editor, and South Jersey bureau chief Ed Kasuba, who's been with the station 33 years, both offered to retire to fulfill CBS' goal of reducing two positions from the KYW news staff. Lancer is the longest-serving member of KYW's staff.
  • In CANADA, there's a frequency change coming in Ontario's "Cottage Country" next month, as Larche Communications completes its acquisition of Rogers' "Jack FM" CICX (105.9 Orillia), which it received (along with C$8.2 million) in trade for its "KICX" CIKZ (106.7 Kitchener). Up in the Midland/Orillia area, Larche will move the "KICX" country format from CICZ (104.1 Midland) back to 105.9, where it started back in the nineties. That March 3 shuffle will bring a new, as yet undisclosed, format to 104.1.

February 16, 2004 -

  • As NERW first reported three weeks ago, the fast-growing Nassau Broadcasting cluster in northern New England is adding yet another group of stations in NEW HAMPSHIRE. This time, it's the Vox cluster in Concord that's joining Nassau. No purchase price has been announced yet, but the deal will add classic hits WNHI (93.3 Belmont), country WOTX (102.3 Concord) and top 40 WJYY (105.5 Concord) to the stations Nassau is buying from Tele-Media (oldies WNNH 99.1 and, down in Nashua, WHOB 106.3.)
  • Vox also owns talk WTPL-FM (107.7 Hillsborough), which isn't part of the deal; it'll continue to be LMA'd to Embro Communications, which owns crosstown WKXL (1450 Concord) and will be pretty much the only local competition for Nassau in the Granite State capital.
  • In VERMONT, the folks at Radio Free Brattleboro (107.9) are bracing for another FCC visit, perhaps as early as this week. The Brattleboro Reformer reports that the unlicensed station's attorney has received a letter from the U.S. Attorney's office in Burlington rejecting several proposals that might have allowed the station to stay on the air; meanwhile, Brattleboro voters will cast ballots March 2 on a question asking whether they "grant permission" for RFB to broadcast.
  • We reported it last November - and now the Taunton Gazette has taken notice of the possible shutdown of that southeastern Massachusetts community's only local radio station. WPEP (1570 Taunton) would go dark under a plan to boost the power of its former sister station, WNSH (1570 Beverly) - but it's not going down without a fight. We hear the station's current staffers are looking for other ways to keep WPEP alive...stay tuned.
  • Regent Communications is bowing out of the ownership scene in PENNSYLVANIA. It struck a deal last week to trade its properties in Erie and Reading to Citadel in exchange for a Citadel cluster in Bloomington, Illinois. The swap puts Citadel in Erie for the first time, where it will own standards WRIE (1260 Erie), country WXTA (97.9 Edinboro), AC WXKC (99.9 Erie) and classic rock WQHZ (102.3 Erie); it also adds country WIOV-FM (105.1 Ephrata) and sports WIOV (1240 Reading) to Citadel's large cluster of stations in eastern and central Pennsylvania.
  • And Citadel wasted no time at all making changes to that cluster as it prepares to bring the country giant that is "I105" into its fold. On Friday, the lagging 80s pop format at WRKZ (102.3 Carlisle) disappeared, replaced by country as "Red." That, in turn, means the imminent demise of another Citadel country property, "Cat Country" WCAT-FM (106.7 Hershey), where PD Sam McGuire departed last week. Cat afternooner Tag Martin is headed to "Red" for mornings, with Cat morning news guy Brad Flick heading for afternoons on Red. So with country on 105.1 for Reading and Lancaster and 102.3 for Harrisburg and York, what will become of 106.7's big central Pennsylvania signal? Stay tuned...

February 12, 1999 -

  • Clear Channel's purchase of Jacor will bring the combined company into a new upstate NEW YORK market: Syracuse. The two companies had to spin off holdings in several markets that would have put them over the ownership limits, and so they engineered a three-way deal that gives Cox Broadcasting some of the "excess" stations in Tampa-St. Petersburg and Louisville. In exchange, Cox gives Clear Channel cash -- and its Syracuse radio group, the market's ratings and revenue leader.
  • The new Clear Channel Syracuse group includes news-talk WSYR (570), sports WHEN (620), AC WYYY (94.5), top-rated country WBBS (104.7 Fulton), and CHR WWHT (107.9). It also gives the combined Clear Channel-Jacor group strong positions in every market along I-90 from Syracuse through Utica and Albany to Springfield, Mass (assuming Clear Channel consummates its pending purchase of Dame Media, that is).
  • And we remember Dick Tobias, the curmudgeonly newsman and commentator who spent four decades in Rochester TV and radio, most notably at WBBF, WHAM, WVOR, and WHEC. Tobias died Thursday (2/11) of a heart attack. He was 71. Funeral plans had not been finalized at press time.
  • What format will end up on the newest FM signal in Worcester, MASSACHUSETTS? There's no way to tell from the six songs that have been repeating on WQVR (100.1 Southbridge) since it signed back on with higher power this week from its new transmitter site overlooking Worcester from the west -- unless someone can claim that Frank Sinatra and Will Smith both fit in one format!
  • The FCC is giving Edmund Dinis six more months to build WLAW (1270 North Dartmouth), much to the dismay of a competing Portuguese broadcaster in the area. Dinis owns WJFD (97.3 New Bedford), the dominant Portuguese-language station in the Southeastern Massachusetts market, and for years, he's been fighting James and Robert Karam, who own a Portuguese newspaper and two radio stations (English-language WSAR 1480 and Portuguese-language WHTB 1400) in Fall River. This week, the FCC dismissed the Karams' last-ditch attempt to stop Dinis from building four towers on Copicut Hill for WLAW. James Karam tells the Providence Journal-Bulletin that WLAW will "disrupt the patterns that are already here" by signing on (which is what NERW thought competition was supposed to do), while Dinis tells the paper that moving WJFD's programming from his class B FM to the new AM will somehow increase its audience from 200,000 to 3 million. Dinis also confirmed for the Journal-Bulletin the long-held speculation that WJFD will become an English-language soft rock station aimed at Providence once the AM signs on. For its part, NERW thinks Providence itself ought to have a Portuguese station again, something that's been missing since WRCP (1290) became public-radio WRNI last year. In the meantime, we'll sit back with a plate of linguica and enjoy the fight...
  • Supporters of legal LPFM will gather next weekend in Allston, as LPFM advocate Steven Provizer holds what he's calling a "town meeting" for LPFM proponents to work out a game plan to push their cause through the upcoming FCC deliberations (and past strong GOP opposition in the senate) and into reality. For what it's worth, the FCC's own studies say the Boston area could be home to anywhere from 0 to 4 LPFMs, depending on whether second- and third-adjacent channels are protected. Also unclear is whether class D stations on commercial frequencies, like Northeastern's WRBB (104.9 Boston) and Brandeis' WBRS (100.1 Waltham) would have protection from the LPFMs that would likely try to apply for those channels if allowed.
  • Up in Canada, the CRTC will open hearings next Monday on the future of 690 and 940 in Montreal. The former is already vacant, and the latter will go silent in March, as the CBC moves its programming to FM in Montreal. Applicants for the channels include existing stations CKVL (850, wants 690) and CIQC (600, wants 940); Hull-based Radio Nord, which wants to make both frequencies into country stations; and the CBC, which -- after telling the CRTC that nobody listens to AM anymore and it needed FM signals to be heard -- wants 690 back after all to start a new all-news service. NERW is enjoying that 690 frequency for the moment; we've heard WZAP Bristol VA, WNZK Westland MI, WOKV Jacksonville FL, and Radio Recuerdo from Bogotà, Colombia, just to name a few -- and another nearby DXer has reported hearing CBU Vancouver one recent night. With a local on 950 down the street, we're not expecting quite as much when 940 goes dark next month...and we're trying not to think about what we'll listen to on the way to work when CBL Toronto vacates 740 at year's end.

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