February 16, 2009
Analog TV Stays In The Picture*
*...unless you're in Providence, Scranton or Burlington*
*...at least until the FCC changes its mind
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
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
*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 RabbitEars.info),
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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
Tuesday...so 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
*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.
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.
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.)
Did you miss it last month?
Catch up on a whole year's worth of radio and TV happenings across
the Great Northeast, plus a particularly spirited (if we do say
so ourselves) Year-End Rant, all on one handy page that will
help you remember a year many of us would probably just as soon
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 "DemocratandChronicle.com"
mike flag amidst the sea of TV and radio mikes on the table at
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...)
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
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
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? CNYRadio.com
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
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
(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.
*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
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
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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*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, PBRTV.com 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 DCRTV.com.)
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.
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
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.)
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 LARadio.com 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
- 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
- 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
- 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?
February 12, 1999 -
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- 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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2009 by Scott Fybush.