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August 2, 2010

CRTC Pulls the Plug on CHSC

*Regulators in CANADA don't often revoke a broadcast license, but the case of Pellpropco Inc. and CHSC (1220 St. Catharines) has been an unusual one for the CRTC.

Ever since Pellpropco took over the station in 2002, it's been in the CRTC's crosshairs for a series of what appeared to be pretty serious violations of Commission policies, most notably an unauthorized shift of format from the English-language music format specified on its license to Italian-language programming aimed not at St. Catharines and the Niagara region but rather at the much larger Toronto market just up the QEW.

The CRTC has been patient with Pellpropco, issuing short-term license renewals while waiting to see if CHSC would correct the violations, but now the agency's patience has run out. After calling CHSC to two hearings (one in Orillia in 2008, then in Toronto earlier this year), the CRTC has denied CHSC's license renewal, ordering the station to be off the air by August 31.

In denying the renewal, the Commission said that it is not convinced that Pellpropco and its owner, Domenic Pellegrino, have "the ability and capacity to put its house in order and, generally, to operate its station responsibly and to fulfil its regulatory obligations and conditions of licence."

The last straw turned out to be a fairly small one: among the promises that the CRTC extracted from Pellpropco at the 2008 Orillia hearing was the guarantee that CHSC would program at least 20 minutes of news each Saturday and Sunday aimed at the St. Catharines area. But when the CRTC reviewed logger tapes at its 2010 Toronto hearing, it found that there was no local weekend news - and it wasn't buying CHSC's explanation that its local news anchor was out sick that day. (Indeed, the CRTC told CHSC that it believed several of the "staffers" the station claimed to have recently hired had been put on the payroll just for the sake of demonstrating compliance at the Toronto hearing.)

Then there's the matter of a main studio, which CHSC hasn't had in St. Catharines since losing its old 36 Queenston Street building to foreclosure in 2008. The CRTC says it's not convinced that Pellpropco has any real intention of building a new local studio. "In fact," the CRTC writes in the denial, "the licensee’s explanations for non-compliance, steps toward compliance and proposed remedies seem to have been made in haste, leaving the Commission unconvinced as to the seriousness with which the licensee takes its regulatory obligations, as well as its ability and willingness to bring the station into compliance."

The last time the CRTC denied a license renewal was at Quebec City's CHOI, which sparred with the CRTC over a controversial morning show. In that case, political pressure forced the CRTC to keep CHOI alive under a new licensee. In this case, it's more likely that the 1220 frequency will indeed go silent at month's end - and it's still an open question as to when or if another broadcaster might apply to reactivate the channel.

*While CHSC fades out, there's a new station on Nova Scotia's south shore. CJHK (100.7 Bridgewater) signed on last week as "Hank FM," with a country format complementing sister station CKBW (98.1), which was itself a country signal back in its AM days. The launch of "Hank" comes with a studio move, too, as both stations relocate to new digs at 135 North Street.

In Montreal, Canadian Hellenic Radio is testing CKIN (106.3), the new ethnic sister station to its CKDG (105.1).

And Dan Sys' Canadian Radio News reports a call change near Montreal as well: CFAV (1570 Laval) is now CJLV.


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*PENNSYLVANIA has never been a hotbed of Spanish-language radio, but a fast-growing national Spanish network is getting cleared on Philadelphia radio beginning today, as Beasley pulls the business talk format off daytimer WWDB (860) in favor of ESPN Deportes.

The arrival of ESPN Deportes will bring a second Spanish-language signal to Philadelphia, complementing Clear Channel's "Rumba 1480" (WUBA), which is itself the remnant of an earlier failed experiment with Spanish-language radio on a full-power FM signal (WUBA-FM 104.5, now WRFF). And it's apparently part of a larger deal between Beasley and ESPN to put the Deportes programming on Beasley signals in other markets, including Atlanta (where Beasley owns WAEC 860 and WWWE 1100) and Boston (where Beasley owns just one station, brokered-time WRCA 1330), though no official announcements have been made yet about clearances in those markets. (Monday morning update - The Atlanta and Boston piece of the deal turns out not to involve ESPN Deportes, but rather a national sales rep agreement between Beasley's Spanish-language AMs and Katz's Univision Radio National Sales division. Thanks to Mark at BRW for the heads-up...)

In Philadelphia, the WWDB deal will split ESPN programming between Greater Media, which runs English-language ESPN Radio on WPEN (950) and WPEN-FM (97.5 Burlington NJ), and Beasley; ironically, WPEN and WWDB have another close relationship - WPEN's nighttime AM transmitter site is the same four-tower array in East Norriton that WWDB uses during daytime hours.

*Up the dial at WHAT (1340 Philadelphia), Missy Stein is out from her 9-10 AM talk show, "What's Up with Missy." The station will run its regular standards format in that slot instead.

*In Scranton, it's a long-awaited return to normalcy for public station WVIA-FM (89.9), which suffered a devastating fire at its Penobscot Mountain transmitter site five months ago. Since then, the FM station has remained on the air with a lower-powered temporary signal from a transmitter in a trailer next to the gutted transmitter building, but on Tuesday at noon WVIA will resume full-power operation from a renovated transmitter facility that will eventually be home to the WVIA-TV facilities as well. (The DTV station has been using the former interim digital facilities of its neighbor WNEP-TV in the interim.)

With the return to full power at WVIA comes a return to HD Radio broadcasting - and for the first time, simulcaster WVYA (89.7 Williamsport) will also be broadcasting in HD, complete with a second multicast stream.

"Recovery from such a technical catastrophe is an enormous undertaking and WVIA thanks our members and listeners for their patience and encouragement," said the station in announcing the return to full power.

*There's a new station moving into the Erie market as part of a sale. Frank Iorio's Iorio Broadcasting struck a deal last week to sell WNAE-FM (102.7 Clarendon) to Family Life Ministries, which has become one of the biggest broadcast groups in western New York and northern Pennsylvania. But there's an interesting twist: the $400,000 sale of the class A station hinges on FCC approval of an application that's yet to be filed. The application would move 102.7 from the Warren area west to Wattsburg, Pennsylvania, which sits right at the corner where the New York/Pennsylvania state line turns from north-south to east-west, less than 20 miles from downtown Erie.

Assuming the FCC approves WNAE's move, it would give Family Life its first full-power signal into Erie, which has long been served by Family Life translator signals.

(WNAE-FM has been simulcasting Iorio's "Kinzua Country" WKNB (104.3 Clarendon), which covers pretty much the same area.)

*A veteran Pittsburgh-area personality has retired after an amazing 44 years at the same spot on the dial. Barry Banker's association with the 620 spot on the AM dial dates back to the station's days as WHJB in Greensburg, and he's remained with 620 in its current incarnation as Irwin-licensed WKHB. Friday was Banker's last day at WKHB and sister station WKFB (770 Jeannette); replacing him in the morning slot at KHB is Bill Korch, who moves over from the PD chair at WEDO (810 McKeesport). Another KHB/KFB veteran, oldies jock Frankie Day, will do mornings alongside Korch.

As for Banker, he'll stay involved with KHB/KFB on a part-time basis, doing the weekend public affairs show and perhaps some sales as well.

*Pittsburgh radio newsman Bob Sprague has died. Sprague started in radio in 1959 in State College just after he graduated from Penn State, and he quickly moved up from WMAJ to Pittsburgh's WTAE, KDKA and eventually KQV, where he spent most of his career. Sprague died July 17 at age 70.

In Philadelphia, they're mourning J.J. Maura, the longtime voice of WCAU-TV (Channel 10), who died Wednesday at 61 after a battle with cancer. Maura had been with WCAU for 20 years, and before that had worked at Philadelphia's WIP, Pittsburgh's KQV and Allentown's WAEB.


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*They called him "Mr. WENY," and over a long career in Elmira, NEW YORK there wasn't much that Steve Christy didn't do at WENY-TV (Channel 36) and WENY radio (1230). Christy, whose real name was Stephan Grabijas, joined the radio station in 1963 fresh off a stint at Fredonia's WBUZ (1570) and an earlier gig at WNIA (1230 Cheektowaga) in his native Buffalo. Once he arrived in Elmira, Christy remained a part of WENY for almost 45 years, until his retirement just two years ago, spending most of that time on the TV side.

Christy was WENY-TV's first weatherman when the TV station signed on in 1969, and he stayed in that role until 2000, when he moved to the morning news anchor slot. Christy also hosted the local segments of the Jerry Lewis telethon for 36 years.

Christy had been battling cancer when he died Thursday (July 29); he was 75.

And Bob Adams, who was the afternoon announcer on New York's classical WNCN (104.3) for many years, died July 19 at the age of 92. Adams, an Oklahoma native, had also worked at WBAI, WNYC and WNEW during a half-century career in radio.

*In non-obituary news, Mark Scott is heading into his last few weeks as news director at Buffalo's WBFO (88.7), but the public station has a replacement already in place: assistant ND Eileen Buckley, another veteran of the Buffalo news scene, will take over as interim news director when Scott retires August 19.

Scott is heading off for a well-deserved European vacation, but he'll contribute long-form reporting to WBFO when he returns to town in the fall.

And in Owego, there's a new station on the air. WHVM (91.9) signed on June 11 from the Mount St. Francis Hermitage near Binghamton, serving the area between Elmira and Binghamton with Catholic programming. (The calls stand for "Holy Virgin Mary.")

*Anyone who still believes the old line about a local TV license being a "license to print money" might look to RHODE ISLAND for a reality check. That's where Global Broadcasting of Southern New England filed for receivership last week, the latest development in a long run of bad news for WLNE (Channel 6), the perennial also-ran of the Providence TV market.

A court has named Providence attorney Matthew McGowan as receiver for the ABC affiliate, and Global's attorneys say they intend to keep WLNE going while Global reorganizes. But there was a perceptible note of uncertainty in the statement from attorney Allan Shine, who told Providence Business News, "We are almost certain WLNE will not close."

Global paid just $14 million for WLNE in 2007, but it's struggled to keep the station afloat ever since. Last year, WLNE lost much of its syndicated programming when it was unable to pay King World for shows such as Dr. Phil and Entertainment Tonight, and the station has remained firmly mired in third place (and occasionally fourth!) with its local newscasts.

*A MASSACHUSETTS program director is moving to CONNECTICUT: Keith Dakin is leaving WFNX (101.7 Lynn), where he's also been morning host, to join Cox Media Group's cluster in Stamford and Norwalk as operations manager. Dakin will oversee classic rock WFOX (95.9 Norwalk), AC "Coast" WCTZ (96.7 Port Chester NY) and the news-talk simulcast of WSTC (1400 Stamford)/WNLK (1350 Norwalk).

*And two unbuilt NEW HAMPSHIRE stations now have callsigns: mark down WSCG (89.5 Dover) for the station that will replace WSCA-LP (106.1 Portsmouth) and WUKV (97.1 Colebrook) for what will become an EMF "K-Love" outlet in the north country once it signs on.

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. Note that 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!)

August 3 & 10, 2009 -

  • Even as CBS Radio puts 41 years of rock radio out to pasture (or at least out to an HD2 channel, which is pretty much the same thing), the station's not going quietly. Current and former staffers, including legendary WBCN names such as longtime PD Oedipus and long-ago jock Peter Wolf of J. Geils Band fame, gathered over the weekend for a farewell concert - and next weekend will mark the start of a series of on-air farewell events leading up to WBCN's final sign-off August 12.
  • Behind the scenes, the wheels are turning quickly on the transition, including a sequence of studio moves that took WBMX (98.5 Boston) from its 1200 Soldiers Field Road studios to a new studio on the top floor of CBS Radio's 83 Leo Birmingham Parkway facility over the weekend. But by the time "Mix 98.5" made it down the road to Birmingham Parkway (the old TV 38 building), it wasn't "WBMX" any longer. CBS quietly changed 98.5's calls from WBMX to WBMX-FM late last week, the first step in the series of call changes that will turn 98.5 into "Sports Hub" WBZ-FM.
  • Here's how it all plays out: when WBMX became WBMX-FM, CBS Radio also flipped WFNA (1660 Charlotte NC), one of its pair of sports stations in the Charlotte market, to "WBMX" - making it all but certain that the Charlotte 1660 signal will end up being the spot where CBS parks the WBCN calls for safekeeping come August 13, when WBMX-FM in Boston changes calls to WBZ-FM and WBMX Charlotte and WBCN Boston swap calls, putting WBMX on 104.1 (as "Mix 104") and creating the cognitive dissonance of "WBCN Charlotte" on the AM dial, for the tiny handful of people who notice such things.
  • The latest high-profile Boston pirate FM has been visited by the FCC. "WPOT Hot 97.5" signed on in mid-July on a particularly poorly-chosen frequency, right next door to Entercom's WAAF relay, WKAF (97.7 Brockton). It didn't take long for agents from the Quincy field office to track the signal to One Westinghouse Plaza in Hyde Park - and to issue a Notice of Unlicensed Operation to the building's landlord, Motherbrook LLC/The Hamilton Co. Will pressure on the landlord get "WPOT" off the air - or will it join other unlicensed signals like "Touch 106" as long-term survivors on the Boston dial, much to the chagrin of the city's licensed operators?
  • The crisis that threatened to cost two small PBS stations in NEW YORK and PENNSYLVANIA much of their viewer and donor bases was averted late last week. WPBS-TV (Channel 16) in Watertown and WQLN-TV (Channel 54) in Erie faced the loss of their large and loyal audiences in Ottawa and London, Ontario, respectively, when Rogers Cable announced it was planning to replace its over-the-air pickups of those stations' signals with the feed of Detroit's PBS station, WTVS (Channel 56), that's already on Rogers' fiber backbone across much of Ontario. Viewers in both London and Ottawa responded with protests to Rogers, and the Canadian cable giant agreed to keep WPBS and WQLN on its systems if the U.S.-based stations could arrange for fiber feeds of their signals to Rogers' Canadian headends. Both stations announced last week that they'll move forward with those feeds, though they come at a significant cost (north of $30,000 a year) at a time when the stations - especially WQLN - are facing budget shortfalls and cuts in state funding.
  • They call it "Happy Valley," but rock fans in State College, PENNSYLVANIA won't be happy if they try to tune to "QWK Rock" (WQWK 103.1 State College) this morning - there's word that Forever Broadcasting is flipping the station to a simulcast of news-talk WRSC (1390 State College). This was the second incarnation of WQWK; its previous facility on 97.1 was traded away to 2510 Licenses a few years back.

August 1, 2005 -

  • There are some nervous programmers in NEW YORK, and around the country, awaiting the aftermath of the settlement between state attorney general Elliot Spitzer and Sony Music over payola charges. While Sony's $10 million payment, coupled with an assurance that it will change its practices, gets the company off the hook with Spitzer's office, the e-mails that Spitzer's office dug up as part of its investigation will likely lead to more investigations, both by the FCC and by some of the broadcasters accused of accepting payola.
  • Among the stations whose call letters appeared in the e-mails were Boston's WXKS and WBCN (where Sony apparently paid for a staff dinner for former PD Oedipus), Albany's WFLY and WKKF (where Sony supplied a $1400 laptop to former PD Donny Michaels), Hartford's WKSS, Buffalo's WKSE (where PD Dave Universal was ousted earlier in the payola investigation, and where the e-mails suggest that even Sony was finding Universal excessively greedy) and Rochester's WPXY (where an e-mail from PD Mike Danger admits "i'm a whore this week. what can i say?")
  • In MASSACHUSETTS, Qantum Communications announced a $10 million spinoff of three Cape Cod stations that it can't keep because of ownership caps. Nassau will enter the Cape market with the purchase of classic rock WPXC (102.9 Hyannis) and oldies WDVT (93.5 Harwich Port)/WTWV (101.1 Mashpee) - and that starts the rumor mill spinning, since Nassau's not a company that tends to be happy with just three signals in a market.
  • In Boston, former WBIX (1060 Natick) owner Brad Bleidt pleaded guilty to mail fraud and money laundering charges last week, which will land him behind bars for 11 years when he's sentenced October 25.

August 7, 2000 -

  • As (WBCN's Charles Laquidara) says goodbye, a new TV station says "hello." WHUB-TV (Channel 66) Marlborough made its debut with a "Cheers"-heavy lineup of syndicated shows on Tuesday (August 1); expect the USA Broadcasting outlet to get heavily into the bidding wars for local sports in the months to come.
  • In NEW YORK's Southern Tier, Vox is growing yet again (with the rumor mill hinting that it's preparing for an eventual sale). The latest additions to Vox's growing cluster down that way are Magnum's WMNS (1360) and WMXO (101.5) in Olean, and just across the state line, the former WRLP (103.1 Russell PA), newly renamed WQFX.
  • We hear Clear Channel will step in and buy Binghamton's WINR (680) from dentist Paul Titus, now that Titus' deal to sell the standards station to Citadel is no more. CC already has four FMs in the market, plus sports AM WENE (1430 Endicott); we wonder what the strategy behind the (reportedly $2 million) purchase will be? (Late word is that an LMA kicked in August 1, with the deal to close this fall.)
  • Radio people on the move: Ellis B. Feaster has packed the moving van and he's on the way out of Rochester for the second time in a few years. Feaster leaves the morning show at oldies WBBF (98.9) for a job at Cox country giant WWKA (92.3) in Orlando, Florida. Down in New York City, former WNEW (102.7) jock Dennis Elsas has resurfaced at the low end of the dial, where he's signed on for afternoon drive at Fordham University's cool AAA WFUV (90.7).
  • The word from VERMONT is that, yes indeed, country WLFE-FM (102.3 St. Albans) has LMA'd AM 1070 across the lake in Plattsburgh NY and is operating it as WLFE(AM). The irony here? Former WLFE owner John Kimel checked in to remind us that back in the early 80s, he flipped the FM to country in an attempt to steal the market share of...AM 1070 in Plattsburgh, then known as WKDR. (Burlington's 100kw 98.9 spoiled the fun a few years later when it switched from CHR as WQCR to country as WOKO.)
  • NEW HAMPSHIRE's most powerful AM station is changing hands. WDER (1320 Derry) is being sold by Spacetown Communications to Blount Communications -- the same folks who own WBCI (105.9 Bath) in Maine, WVNE (760 Leicester) in Central Mass., and WARV (1590 Warwick) in Rhode Island. No word yet on a sale price, and we don't expect any change in WDER's religious format. (And before we hear from Bob Vinikoor: yes, his 50kw CP for WQTH 720 in Hanover will be the most powerful Granite State AM when it takes the air; for now, WDER's 10kw daytime wins the prize.)

New England Radio Watch, August 8, 1995

  • WLYT, 92.5 in Haverhill MA, has taken a dive into "The River." That's the station's new nickname as of Monday morning, 8/1. Format for the 35kw powerhouse 35 miles north of Boston is the AAA-80s pop sort of mix they've been using for the last few weeks. A call letter change is reportedly in the works. This is an exciting breath of life for a station that's been largely ignored, despite a solid class B signal that rimshots Boston and is solid in the Merrimack Valley area along the Mass-NH border, where the other FMs (WSSH 99.5 Lowell, WEGQ 93.7 Lawrence) are now operating out of Boston, at least as far as studios are concerned.
  • The big media deals of the last two days are having their aftershocks in New England. The ABC-Disney deal won't change much, since ABC has been busy selling its properties here. WPRO AM-FM Providence went to Tele-Media a year or so ago, and CapCities/ABC's several newspapers in Connecticut have been sold off as well. CBS/Westinghouse is another story. The deal creates an immediate AM-FM-TV combo in Boston - Group W's WBZ AM-TV and CBS's WODS FM. Look for "Oldies 103" to move from downtown Boston to BZ's newly-expanded building.
    Westinghouse also ends up in line to get WPRI-TV 12 in Providence, which CBS has applied to buy from Narragansett Broadcasting. Since WPRI-TV and WBZ-TV have significant overlap, a waiver will be needed.
  • Layoffs at WGBH: Boston's public broadcasting behemoth is laying off 25 staffers, citing budget problems. Meanwhile, listeners upset over planned schedule changes that will reduce daytime classical programming in favor of news are forming a listeners'
    group to protest the move. The big issue: the planned cancellation of Ron Della Chiesa's afternoon "MusicAmerica" program.

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