April 27, 2009
On The Death of WARM*
*even if slightly exaggerated
*By itself, the story of Scranton, PENNSYLVANIA's
WARM (590) is a fairly common one: a once-dominant AM station
falls on hard times, fades from public attention, gets neglected
in a cluster full of bigger FM sister stations, and ends up as
not much more than a satellite dish connected to a transmitter.
the last couple of weeks in WARM-land have been unusual ones,
and worthy of special note for anyone who's still even mildly
hopeful that there's still some life remaining in the bigger
corners of the AM dial.
As we told you last week, the overall lack of maintenance
at WARM's five-tower transmitter site finally took its toll earlier
this month, taking the station off the air. That wasn't WARM's
first silent period, but for whatever reason, this one got the
attention of the local media, which made WARM's absence - and
rumors of its outright demise - a lead story on TV newscasts
and in the local papers.
Whatever Citadel's original plans for WARM might have been,
all that attention seemed to light a fire under the company,
and by Thursday there was once again a signal on the air at 590
over Scranton, still carrying the True Oldies Channel satellite
format that WARM has been running for the last few years.
of story? Maybe, maybe not - because even if Citadel is prepared
to let WARM continue to linger in a near-death fugue state, there's
still ample evidence that at least in this one case, the listeners
who once loved this AM station aren't ready to let go of their
memories yet. Consider, for instance, the front page of Sunday's
Wilkes-Barre Times Leader. What's that lead story taking
up most of the page? It's WARM's longtime morning man, Harry
West, sharing his memories of life as one of the "Sensational
Seven" DJs, with avid listeners everywhere from north Jersey
Times change, to be sure, and we'd never dream of suggesting
that a station like WARM - even if restored to its full-throated
5,000-watt glory - could ever attract more than a small fraction
of the 70 shares it once pulled in Scranton. But in a market
that's full of older listeners, most of them native to the area,
it's hard to believe there's not some way that all those "warm"
feelings still out there about this legendary radio station couldn't
be harnessed, with a bit of an investment, into a new WARM that
could keep alive at least some of the magic of the old "Mighty
590." If Citadel's not up to the challenge, will it at long
last find a buyer who is?
*In other news from around the Keystone State, there's a new
station on the air in Sykesville, serving the Du Bois market.
WZDB (95.9) is running classic rock under PD Mike Donovan and
OM Tom Howard - and it joins seven other First Media stations
in central Pennsylvania.
Up north along the New York border, Cary Simpson's Farm and
Home Broadcasting is hoping the second time will be the charm
for the sale of WFRM-FM (96.7 Coudersport). A deal to sell the
station to Backyard Broadcasting for $325,000 fell through in
February, and now broker Ray Rosenblum has worked out a $275,000
deal to sell the station to Jeff Andrulonis' Colonial Broadcasting
group. WFRM-FM has an as-yet-unbuilt CP to move to Portville,
NY, in the Olean market - and Colonial already owns several other
stations in the area, including WXMT (106.3 Smethport) and WLMI
In Philadelphia, WHYY-TV/FM is the latest public broadcaster
feeling the pressure of tight budgets. The Inquirer reports
that the stations are laying off 16 full-time employees and one
part-time employee, none of them on the on-air or content-production
staff. Despite recent criticism of high salaries and benefit
packages for the stations' top executives - a common thread at
several public broadcasting operations in the region - WHYY leaders
reportedly told staffers that no executive pay cuts were being
At Radio One's WPHI (100.3 Media), Charlamagne is the new
morning-drive jock, starting Friday.
And we send our condolences to veteran central Pennsylvania
broadcaster Chris Lash on the death of his wife, Karen Yourd
Lash. She had a long broadcast career of her own, beginning in
her native Indiana, PA at WDAD/WQMU. In more recent years, the
Lashes had been managing several stations in Florida. Karen Lash
died Tuesday (April 21) after a long battle with cancer; she
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*We'll begin our NEW YORK report with
a note about why this week's column took a few more hours than
usual to put together - an outage of Time Warner Cable's RoadRunner
internet service that apparently knocked out service to internet
and digital phone customers everywhere from Maine to Buffalo
for about four hours Sunday morning.
There's a media connection here, if a tangential one: for
a company that's been beset by PR issues in recent weeks (usage caps, anyone?), TWC
did a remarkably poor job of getting the word out about the extent
of the outage and its attempts to rectify the problem. At least
here in Rochester, TWC's phone lines were, understandably, in
a state of constant busy for several hours.
about the cable news channels the company operates, such as R
News in Rochester? We're hearing that the word came down from
upstairs not to mention anything at all about the issue until
an official statement was available, which turned out to be some
time after the problems had been resolved.
Noting here that your editor is a former R News reporter -
and that there was a little more editorial independence back
in our days there - we're wondering: if R News and its sister
channels are no longer making any pretense of independent news
coverage of their parent company, why not at least put those
channels to use as a readily-available way to let customers know
about big outages like this...and maybe even ease the pressure
on overloaded call centers?
*Staying upstate for a moment: down the road in Syracuse,
veteran DJ Rick Gary has departed his TV gig, as host of the
"Bridge Street" mid-morning show on WSYR-TV (Channel
9). Gary had been with channel 9 since the mid-eighties, first
doing weather and then as morning co-anchor, but Friday's "Bridge
Street" was, quietly, his last. Gary's radio career has
included long runs at WOLF, WSYR and WYYY; currently, he's heard
in afternoons on Galaxy's WZUN (102.1) in Syracuse and WUMX (102.5)
As we noted in passing in our mid-week NAB update, Clear Channel's
WGY (810 Schenectady) was the only NERW-land winner of an NAB
Crystal Radio Award, handed out during the radio luncheon at
the NAB Show in Las Vegas. (Or so we're told; we were hanging
out, guilt-free, at the much more lively informal engineering
luncheon across the street at the Riviera buffet...)
In any case, the focus on community service from both NAB
and Clear Channel meant we heard more this year than in past
years about exactly what qualified each of the winners to receive
a Crystal Award; in WGY's case, that included nearly $2 million
in charitable donations during 2008 from the station and its
listeners, as well as 860 hours of community service volunteered
by WGY employees.
(And yes, there was a time when that sort of thing was simply
what radio stations were expected to do without winning any awards
for it. )
Moving downstate, Shamrock's as-yet-unbuilt CP in the Catskills
has changed city of license. WJZI (107.1) had been granted as
a class A in Livingston Manor, but it has now shifted 15 miles
or so to the west up Route 17, changing locations to Bass Mountain
It was a quiet week in New York City, with much of the radio
industry's brass occupied across the country at NAB, but there
was some news from "Pulse 87" (WNYZ-LP), where Borasio
and Niko join the dance station's staff for middays and afternoons,
respectively; that moves Showboat from middays to weekends.
Out on Long Island, the Calvary Chapel of Hope is changing
frequencies on its construction permit for WRMR in Lindenhurst.
It's moving from 89.3 to 89.7, effectively swapping facilities
with Calvary's pending application for 89.3 in nearby Copiague
- and clearing the way for that Copiague application to be treated
as a "singleton" that can be promptly granted.
obituary of note this week: Merv Ainsworth was one of the founding
fathers of television in central New York, moving from WKAL radio
in Rome to WKTV in Utica back in 1950, just a year after the
station had signed on. In 42 years with WKTV, Ainsworth built
a remote-control system for the station's transmitter site -
and by 1980 rose to the post of chief engineer, which he held
until his retirement in 1992. Ainsworth also helped build WUFM
(107.3) in Utica in 1962. He died last Sunday (April 19) at 83.
*In NEW JERSEY, there's more news
from the new "Wibbage-FM," WILW (94.3 Avalon) - in
addition to a pending call change to WIBG-FM, the oldies station
has signed Philadelphia radio legend Jim Nettleton to do mornings,
and it's picking up Sam Lit's "HyLitRadio" service
for overnights, complete with vintage Philly airchecks.
Up at WRNJ (1510 Hackettstown), Friday morning will be the
last early wakeup call for morning man Russ Long. After a long
career at the station, dating back to its debut in 1976 and including
almost twenty years in morning drive, Long is hanging up his
headphones. The rest of WRNJ's morning team will stay on while
the station seeks a new host.
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*Bill Corbeil was living every radio lover's
dream when he bought his hometown station, WTSA (1450)/WTSA-FM
(96.7), in Brattleboro, VERMONT not quite two years
ago. We'd been following from a distance (and meaning to get
up for a visit) as Bill and his wife Kelli moved the stations
into new studios and worked hard to build up their local standing
in a region full of conglomerate ownership.
was quite a shock to get the news last Tuesday (April 21) that
Corbeil had lost a short battle with cancer, succumbing early
that morning at Brattleboro Memorial Hospital at the far-too-young
age of 40.
Corbeil's association with WTSA went back to his childhood,
when his father would bring him down to the station after school
to watch the DJs work. After college at UVM, Corbeil worked at
Burlington's WIZN (106.7), where he worked on-air and as the
producer of the "Corm and the Coach" morning show.
In 1998, Corbeil returned to Brattleboro to take over his family's
auto dealership, but the call of radio lured him back to WTSA.
In addition to his wife, who's running the stations (where
the website's memorial to Corbeil promises "We will continue
to live your dream"), he leaves behind two young sons -
and a staff that's deep in mourning for a leader gone far too
*Across the river in NEW HAMPSHIRE,
the strange saga of Aaron Aldridge came to a resolution Tuesday
night - and it happened just an hour or so down the road from
the NAB convention in Las Vegas. Police in California spotted
Aldridge's car on I-15 near the Nevada border, ending a nationwide
manhunt for the former WNTK (99.7 New London)/WUVR (1490 Lebanon)
morning man, who's now behind bars and facing a series of charges
as a fugitive from justice and for the possession and production
of child pornography, some of it reportedly featuring his teenage
*In MASSACHUSETTS, a familiar TV face
is coming to the radio airwaves. Mike Macklin, a veteran of the
reporting staffs at WHDH-TV (Channel 7) and WBZ-TV (Channel 4),
has signed on with WBZ (1030) as a reporter/anchor, adding some
heft to a news staff that's been hit hard by cutbacks and retirements
in recent months.
Up the AM dial a bit, Clear Channel has finally finished the
last bits of work needed to get WKOX (1200 Newton) to a full
50,000 watts day and night from the transmitter site in Oak Hill
it now shares with WRCA (1330 Watertown) and WUNR (1600 Brookline).
As the first directional array to be licensed under the new rules
allowing for computer modeling in place of the laborious proofing
process, WKOX's upgrade was the subject of an engineering paper
presented out at the NAB Show; someday, perhaps, they'll write
a book about all the hurdles that the three stations had to overcome
to get this new site on the air. (And long before that happens,
we'll feature it on Tower Site of the Week soon...)
In Worcester, WNEB (1230) is temporarily silent as it prepares
to launch a new format next week, reportedly some flavor of Spanish-language
And in Northampton, Mike Haze is out (due to budget cuts)
as afternoon jock at WHMP-FM (99.3).
*In CONNECTICUT, Pam Landry is out
at WPLR (99.1 New Haven) after nearly two decades, most recently
as midday jock and music director. "The Wigmaster"
takes over middays at the Cox rocker.
Up in Lakeville, Joe Loverro is back in the morning chair
at WQQQ (103.3 Sharon). He left the station in July 2008 to be
treated for cancer - and he tells NERW that after chemo, surgery
and radiation, he's now cancer-free and happy to be back on the
air with Corey Chapman. Interim morning host Thia has left the
*After a few quiet weeks at the CRTC, CANADA's
radio regulators were busy last week, authorizing a few new signals
in the Maritimes and denying two new AM applications in greater
We'll start out
in Nova Scotia, where MBS won a move to FM at CKDH (900 Amherst).
Once the AM signal shifts over to 101.7 FM (with 18 kW) - and
it sounds like the move will happen pretty quickly - that will
leave just six remaining AM stations in the province, and three
of those (CFDR 780 in Halifax, CBI 1140 in Sydney and CFAB 1450
in Windsor) have plans to move to FM as well.
In Bridgewater, Acadia Broadcasting won a license for 10 kW
on 100.7, where it will run a country station as a companion
to existing CKBW (94.5).
In the Greater Toronto Area, the CRTC decided that there's
no immediate need for more ethnic radio signals, particularly
since several new entrants (including CHTO 1690 and CINA 1650)
have yet to build up any track record - so it denied applications
for new signals on 960 in Markham and 1350 in Scarborough.
And in Hamilton, CIWV (94.7) is applying for a power increase
to 100 kW DA. The move comes as part of a coordinated plan with
CIBU (94.5 Wingham), which would change from 100 kW DA/217 m
to 75 kW/215 m, slightly reducing overlap with the Hamilton station.
CIBU's sister station CKNX-FM (101.7 Wingham) would go from 100
kW DA to 100 kW ND/215 m.
CIWV's directional pattern would continue to pull in to provide
protection (at least on the US side of the border) to Buffalo's
WNED-FM (94.5); it would pick up significant additional coverage
of Toronto as part of what it describes as an "optimization"
of the southern Ontario FM spectrum ahead of a 2011 deadline
from Industry Canada, after which stations will be protected
only to their existing contours and not to their class maximums.
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
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and didn't go to a regular weekly schedule until 1997. Thanks
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idea - and thanks to you, our readers, for the support
that's made all these years of NERW possible!)
April 28, 2008 -
- One of the legendary top 40 voices of the northeast has been
silenced, far too young. "Big Ron" O'Brien, whose career
included stops at Philadelphia's WFIL, WYXR/WLCE and WOGL and
New York's WXLO, WNBC and WTJM, died Sunday morning (April 27)
of complications from pneumonia. O'Brien began his broadcast
career in 1969 at KUDL in Kansas City, and in the typical progression
of the day, he quickly moved through Denver (KTLK), Chicago (WCFL)
and Atlanta (WQXI). By 1974, he was in New York, doing nights
at "99X," and by 1976 he was in Philadelphia at WFIL,
where he spent three years.
- O'Brien then moved to Los Angeles, where he worked at KFI
and KIIS, then to St. Louis and Denver (with a brief interlude
at WNBC in the early 1980s) before returning to Philadelphia
in 1996, where he worked at WYXR (104.5, later WLCE). In 1999,
O'Brien was part of the inaugural airstaff at New York's WTJM
(Jammin 105); in 2002, he joined Philadelphia's WOGL (98.1) for
afternoon drive, and it was there that he remained for what turned
out to be the last six years of his career. O'Brien had been
ill for several months, WOGL says. He was just 56.
- Elsewhere in PENNSYLVANIA, the sale of WNTJ (850 Johnstown)
from Forever to Birach Broadcasting has closed, and as of midnight
last night, the news-talk format that had been on 850 (and simulcast
on WNTW 990 in Somerset) has moved back to its former home on
1490 in Johnstown. The 1490 signal, which holds the WPRR calls
long heard in Altoona, has been running an all-sports format;
it returned to Forever's hands last fall in a purchase from Nick
Galli's 2510 group. The WNTJ calls will return to 1490 as well,
probably later this week.
- So what happens now with 850? The $300,000 purchase by Birach
includes not only the license for 850 (and for another Forever
station, WCND 940 in Shelbyville, KY) but also the 115-acre tower
site in Paint Township, Somerset County. Forever was reportedly
eager to be free of the hassles of maintaining that nine-tower
site, easily the most complex directional array in the northeast,
and NERW suspects Birach isn't in this deal with the intent of
maintaining the 10 kW DA-1 Johnstown signal on 850, either. Birach
has interests elsewhere in the region (including WWCS 540 in
Canonsburg, near Pittsburgh, and WTOR 770 Youngstown, NY, serving
Toronto) - could the company have plans to move the Johnstown
signal elsewhere? That would be a challenging task, since that
nine-tower directional array shoehorns the Johnstown 850 into
a tight squeeze between other 850 signals in Cleveland (WKNR)
and Boston (WEEI), not to mention 860s in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia,
Baltimore and Toronto and plenty of other nearby-on-the-dial
stations that would need to be protected. In the meantime, there's
a loop repeating over (and over and over) on 850 directing listeners
up the dial to 1490 - and no indication at all on the WNTJ website
that anything has changed.
- The big news in MASSACHUSETTS last week came from the TV
management front, where WHDH-TV/WLVI VP/general manager Randi
Goldklank was all over the tabloids after being arrested at Logan
Airport following an incident during a flight last Sunday night.
Goldklank told state police that a male passenger sitting next
to her had been harassing her; Delta Airlines told police she
had been acting "unruly" aboard the plane. A police
report claimed Goldklank told the officers who met the plane,
"I'll have a news crew down here in minutes and you will
lose your (bleeping) jobs." Goldklank was arrested for disorderly
conduct, resisting arrest and assault and battery on a police
officer. She's on leave from the stations and apparently in rehab.
At least for now, station owner Sunbeam Broadcasting is standing
behind Goldklank, who was reportedly on medication for depression
after the recent death of her mother. Former WHDH-TV general
manager Mike Carson, who'd been consulting for the station, is
back as interim VP/GM in Goldklank's absence.
- One of Boston's best-known and longest-running sportscasters
has died. Don Gillis began his career in radio, first at New
Bedford's WBSM and then at Boston's WHDH, in the late forties,
filling in for Red Sox announcer Curt Gowdy when illness kept
him off the air for much of the 1957 season and hosting the "Voice
of Sports" talk show, which set the stage for all the sports
talk that would follow over the decades in Boston. When WHDH-TV
(Channel 5) launched a nightly sportscast in 1962, Gillis was
the station's first sports director, crafting the blueprint for
local TV sports reporting. Gillis was the first sports anchor
in Boston to have film clips during his reports, and he'll forever
be remembered for his coverage of the Red Sox during their "Impossible
Dream" season of 1967.
- When WHDH-TV folded a decade later and was replaced by the
new WCVB on Channel 5, Gillis followed many of his colleagues
out to Needham, becoming WCVB's sports director for its first
decade on the air. Gillis retired as sports director of WCVB
in 1982, but he stayed on as host of "Candlepin Bowling"
on Saturday afternoons until the end of the show's run in 1996.
Gillis died Wednesday (April 23) at his Cape Cod home. He was
April 26, 2004 -
- Entercom will still end up with western NEW YORK's FM sports
station, but a last-minute bidding war means the price tag for
WNSA (107.7 Wethersfield Township) will be $1.5 million higher
than expected. Late last week, Entercom's Buffalo rival Citadel
put in a $9,350,000 bid for the signal, topping Entercom's initial
$9 million offer to buy WNSA out of the Adelphia bankruptcy.
That move (a reaction, perhaps, to speculation that Entercom
plans to use 107.7 to go after Citadel's market-leading rocker
WGRF?) touched off a telephone auction Friday that ended with
a $10.5 million bid by Entercom. A federal bankruptcy court could
approve the station's transfer as early as today; the buzz within
the market still suggests that Entercom will move WNSA's Sabres
rights and perhaps a few of its sports talk hosts over to WGR
(550 Buffalo) and take 107.7 to some sort of rock format. Stay
- Two of the state's smallest TV stations are getting a new
owner. Equity Broadcasting, the Little Rock-based station group
that's become a big owner of small stations, is buying WNGS (Channel
67) in Springville from Caroline Powley and WNYI (Channel 52)
in Ithaca from Powley's husband Bill Smith. Equity will pay $5
million for WNGS, which serves the Buffalo market on cable, though
the deal's price will be reduced by $1 million if WNGS-DT's channel
46 application, which would serve the full Buffalo market from
the WKBW-TV tower in Colden, isn't approved within three years.
The deal for WNYI, which also includes KWWF (Channel 22) in Waterloo,
Iowa, is also for $5 million, again with a $1 million discount
if WNYI's application for a Syracuse-market upgrade isn't approved
within three years.
- Citadel is entering western MASSACHUSETTS in a big way. It's
paying $22 million to buy WMAS-FM (94.7 Springfield) and WMAS
(1450 Springfield) from Lappin Communications, one of the last
big local owners in the region. (Inside Radio reports that Citadel
had competition: Pamal's Jim Morrell and veteran New England
station owner Jeff Wilks both made offers to Bob Lappin as well.)
The WMAS purchase gives Citadel a western foothold to add to
its holdings in Worcester (WORC-FM, WWFX, WXLO) and Providence/New
Bedford (WPRO AM-FM, WSKO AM-FM, WKKB, WWLI, WWKX/WAKX, WBSM,
WFHN); we'll have to wait and see whether any changes are in
store for the FM's AC format or the AM's standards.
- Trenton, NEW JERSEY and the 97.5 FM facility have been linked
together for more than forty years, way back to the WTOA days
- but now Nassau is asking the FCC to reallocate what's now WPST
(the "T" even stands for Trenton) to Burlington, closer
in to Philadelphia. Nassau's application doesn't call for any
change in WPST's transmitter site - but since it's a grandfathered
pre-1964 allocation, WPST should be able to make a physical move
closer to Philly once its city-of-license change is granted,
even though it's already significantly short-spaced to WOGL (98.1
Philadelphia) and several other stations.
April 23, 1999 -
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- There's a format change on the way in NEW YORK's capital
city, as Albany's WABY (1400) prepares to drop music during the
day in favor of an all-news format. The station's new owner,
Tele-Media, is contracting with Metro Networks to provide local
news inserts to CNN Headline News from 5 AM until 7 PM weekdays.
The rest of the time, WABY(AM) will continue to simulcast the
soft AC format of WABY-FM (94.5 Ravena). In recent years, the
AM station has been all but ignored on-air and in promotions.
Meanwhile on the FM side, afternoon host David Allen is moving
- In Syracuse, one of the market's oldest stations is about
to get fitted for its mouse ears. WOLF (1490) will switch from
satellite talk to Radio Disney May 3, along with simulcast partners
WOLF-FM (96.7 Oswego) and WKGJ (1340 Auburn). Also in the Salt
City, we note that WVOA (105.1 DeRuyter) has told the FCC it
has no interest in moving city of license to Chittenango anymore,
so the matter has been dropped for now.
- In CONNECTICUT, there's a new format at WKCD (107.7 Pawcatuck),
as the smooth jazz gives way to a modern AC sound known on-air
as "Channel 107-7, New Music for the New Millennium."
WKCD is looking for an airstaff, in care of sister station Hot
106 (WWKX/WAKX) up in Woonsocket -- or, as they pronounce it,
"Providence." We note a nice little three-state rivalry
between Back Bay Broadcasting, which owns WKCD and Hot 106, and
Spring Broadcasting, whose "Fun 107" (WFHN 107.1 New
Bedford MA) competes against Hot in Rhode Island and southeast
Massachusetts, and whose WQGN (105.5 Groton CT) competes against
the new WKCD.
- As we'd suspected, there's been a format change in the Burlington,
VERMONT market. WEAV (960), which is actually licensed across
the lake in Plattsburgh NY, went all-talk last week. The Capstar
station's lineup begins with Imus (who's no longer being heard
on sister country station WXPS "Kix" 96.7) and continues
with Mike Gallagher, Dr. Joy Browne, Don & Mike, the Fabulous
Sports Babe, the Dolans, and overnights and weekends from the
WOR Network. The WEAV signal has never been tremendously good
on the Vermont side of the lake, and it will be interesting to
see how the station competes with established news-talkers WVMT
(620) and WKDR (1390) right in Burlington.
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