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November 22, 2010

Smerconish Shakes Up Philly Talk

*The new year will bring a talk radio shakeup in southeastern PENNSYLVANIA, where CBS Radio's WPHT (1210 Philadelphia) will rearrange its schedule to move morning man Michael Smerconish to afternoons, dropping Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity as "The Big Talker" segues to a nearly all-local lineup during the day.

Over the last couple of years, Smerconish has become one of the hardest-working hosts in talk radio, holding down both a local airshift on WPHT in morning drive and a syndicated midday airshift, all while writing newspaper columns and becoming increasingly visible on cable TV news. (Last week, for instance, he guest-hosted MSNBC's "Hardball" all week.)

"I have zero regrets from the last two years, but as I expected, it is just too much and I am looking forward to applying a renewed sense of focus to one show daily. I am also anxious to watch Phillies games beyond the 5th inning and no longer get up at 3:30 a.m.!," said Smerconish in a statement announcing his plans to cut down from his current seven hours of live talk daily (the Philadelphia morning show and a noon-3 PM national show syndicated by Dial Global.)

The January schedule shift will reduce Smerconish's workload to four daily hours of radio talk: one local-only hour from 3-4 PM followed by his syndicated show, delayed from its live midday slot to 4-7 PM. Moving Smerconish to afternoons on WPHT will displace Hannity, and current nighttime talker Dom Giordano will move to 9 AM-noon, replacing Beck. There's a new morning voice coming to WPHT as well: Chris Stigall, who's now the morning host at Entercom's KCMO (710) in Kansas City, will be the new leadoff man in the "Big Talker" lineup. Out of WPHT's present daytime syndicated lineup, only Rush Limbaugh will stay in place.

But WPHT's schedule shakeup is only the first act of what promises to be a bigger shuffle of talk personalities and perhaps even formats in the Philadelphia market. There's no question that Premiere Radio Networks will aggressively pursue new outlets for Beck and Hannity in this top-10 market, but there's also no obvious place for them to go: ever since WPHT drove talk competitor WWDB-FM (96.5, now Beasley rhythmic WRDW-FM) out of the format a decade ago, CBS has had the mainstream talk format nearly to itself in Philadelphia.

The most obvious next stop for Beck and Hannity might be Salem's talker, WNTP (990), but moving those shows to WNTP would take two of Salem's own top talk hosts, Mike Gallagher and Michael Medved, out of live Philadelphia clearances, and while Salem now carries Beck and Hannity in several markets, the chain's strong preference appears to be to clear its own network offerings.

Then there's Premiere parent Clear Channel, which has taken advantage of similar recent shifts in the talk marketplace to bring its flagship talk hosts in-house in other markets such as Raleigh-Durham, New Orleans and Boston. Could it happen again in Philadelphia? Clear Channel's station roster includes several second-tier performers: hot AC WISX (106.1, which just segued from "My 106.1" to "Mix 106.1"), rocker WRFF (104.5) and signal-challenged Spanish tropical WUBA (1480). So far, Clear Channel is saying it has no interest in flipping any of its existing Philadelphia signals to talk; market manager John Rohm tells the Inquirer's Michael Klein that even lowly WUBA is off the table for a talk flip that would keep Beck and Hannity on the air in town.

Over at Greater Media, market manager John Fullam similarly denied any interest in building a talk station by splitting the simulcast of "the Fanatic," the ESPN outlet now duplicated on WPEN-FM (97.5 Burlington NJ) and WPEN (950 Philadelphia).

(None of those denials has stopped the speculation about a bigger move on the part of Premiere/Clear Channel: now that CBS has pulled Beck and Hannity off WPHT, will Premiere find a way to pull Limbaugh's show off 1210 as well, creating the foundation for an eventual Philly version of "Rush Radio"?)

In the short term, it's likely that Beck and Hannity will find clearances somewhere on the dial; Klein speculates another format change could be in the offing at WHAT (1340 Philadelphia), a station with an even more restricted signal than Clear Channel's WUBA. In the long run, it's likely that someone in town will end up trying to use Beck, Hannity and perhaps even Rush as the cornerstone of a more substantial talk competitor to WPHT. When it happens, it won't be anything new for CBS; in many of the handful of markets where the company is heavily invested in talk, it's faced similar challenges from Clear Channel - KDKA (1020 Pittsburgh) lost Limbaugh to a Clear Channel FM challenger a few years back, leaving Rush on only three CBS stations: WTIC (1080 Hartford), KXNT (100.5/840 Las Vegas) and KMOX (1120 St. Louis).

*Elsewhere in the Keystone State, Four Rivers Community Broadcasting has a construction permit for a new outlet for its "Word-FM" religious programming: the new 90.7 will be licensed to Spring Grove, serving Hanover and vicinity from a 200-watt transmitter up in the hills near Gnatstown, PA.

Bible Broadcasting Network has a new CP as well, on 88.3 in Leesport, serving Reading with 670 watts/276' DA.

In Erie, Citadel is bringing the morning show at WXTA (97.9 Edinboro) back in-house, though still not live and local. Replacing the "Big D and Bubba" show is "Scrubs in the Morning," which originates from Citadel sister station WTNR in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

In Altoona, they're mourning Richard DiRoma, who was known as "Dick Richards" during a radio and TV career that began in the 1950s in his native New England. After a stint in Wellsville, N.Y., Richards came to Altoona in the early 1960, working at WRTA (1240) before settling in for a long run at WFBG (1290) and WFBG-TV (Channel 10, later WTAJ), where he became sports director. He later returned to radio at WFBG, WVAM (1430) and WKMC (1370); he retired in the early 1990s and died Nov. 16 at age 77.

*130 unionized employees at NEW JERSEY's statewide NJN radio and TV network received layoff notices last week, the next step in Gov. Chris Christie's plan to end the state's operation of the public broadcaster by year's end.

It's still not at all clear what will become of NJN's operations after December 31. Late last week, state officials met with nonprofit funders and public broadcasting experts to try to map out a future for NJN that would meet Christie's dual (and potentially contradictory) goals of eliminating state spending on public broadcasting while preserving NJN's local programming and possibly even retaining some measure of state control over the networks.

While it's widely believed that New York-based WNET and Philadelphia-based WHYY are likely candidates to take over operation of NJN's TV service, there are other options on the table as well: some lawmakers are suggesting spinning off NJN's less-than-statewide radio service while retaining TV, while others support the transfer of both radio and TV to a consortium that would be run by Stockton College and Montclair State University. (That option, however, would simply shift the state's responsibility for NJN from direct funding to indirect support through the state college system.)

Will NJN in fact go dark? At week's end, state officials were trying to downplay that possibility, saying the Dec. 31 deadline to end the state's operation of the networks could be pushed back if there's a plan in place for NJN's future.

*More cutbacks at troubled Atlantic Broadcasting: midday jock Brion O'Brion is out after just a few months at WWAC (Wild 102.7) in Atlantic City.

A call change: unbuilt WSFS (89.3 Freehold) will become WFJS-FM, matching its Catholic sister station WFJS (1260) in Trenton.


The production process was a little more complex than usual for Tower Site Calendar 2011, but at long last we're shipping the tenth installment in what's become an annual radio tradition.

The new calendar is now back from the printer, complete with more than a dozen exciting new images including that nifty cover shot of Mount Beacon, N.Y.

And if you order now, you'll have the 2010 calendar in your hands long before the holiday rush!

But wait - there's more! We now have a small supply of the new FM Atlas, 21st edition, as well as a limited supply of Tower Site Calendar 2010 as well - plus the signed, limited-edition version of the 2011 calendar and much more in the store!

We've got special discounts for bulk orders, too - they make great gifts for your business colleagues or friends...

We are offering "calendar bouquets" of our old editions. It's a great way to buy a bunch of beautiful tower pinups at once! For just $16, you can get the 2004, 2005, 2008 and 2009 calendars! (Special packaging available on request.)

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*Radio People on the Move in NEW YORK: Clear Channel is making big changes at WWPR (Power 105.1) in New York City, dismissing morning man Ed Lover and producer Sarah O'Connor and middayer De Ja and moving Lover's co-host Malikah Mallette from mornings to middays.

What's next for mornings at Power 105? The rumor mill has Charlamagne (late of Philadelphia's WPHI) tagged for that slot, co-hosting with DJ Envy (now on afternoons at WWPR). And could either of two former WQHT morning personalities - "Miss Jones," now at Clear Channel's WUSL in Philadelphia, or "Miss Info," now at SiriusXM - be part of the new morning show as well?

Behind the scenes, we're hearing that Mark Olkowski is out at CBS Radio, where he worked his way up over the years to Director of Broadcast Operations and Engineering; no replacement has been named yet.

In Albany, Tanch is the new program director and midday jock at Pamal's WFLY (92.3 Troy). He'd been assistant PD and night jock at sister station WAJZ (96.3 Voorheesville), where afternoon jock Charlie becomes APD and Scott Penk takes over nights.

A veteran Rochester radio programmer is coming back to town. Bob Barnett launched WBEE-FM (92.5) two decades ago, building the station into a country giant before departing for bigger and better things. Most recently, Barnett had been in Miami, managing Beasley's WKIS (99.9), but as of next Monday he'll be back in Rochester and back at WBEE as he takes on the operations manager position at Entercom, filling the void left by John Thomas' move to Denver in October.

Across town, there's a programming change at Clear Channel sports-talker WHTK (1280/107.3), where the Stephen A. Smith morning show has been replaced with another syndicated offering, Fox Sports Radio's "Zakk and Jack." The new show, based at sister station WNDE (1260) in Indianapolis, is being offered to Fox Sports affiliates as an alternate to Smith's established morning show. (And could this be a short-term move for WHTK before a well-known local name moves into morning drive?)

On TV, NBC outlet WHEC (Channel 10) dramatically reworked its 7 PM newscast on Thursday. Gone is the standard two-anchor "News 10 NBC Nightly News at 7;" in its place is "ROC City Tonight," anchored solo by Lia Lando. It's evidently targeted at younger viewers, with Lando out from behind the desk and a heavy emphasis on social media.

Fresh off its launch of Catholic radio in Boston (via WQOM 1060), Buffalo-based Holy Family Communications is adding another station to its portfolio, albeit a much less expensive one: it's paying the Dominican Monastery of Mary the Queen just $1,000 for the construction permit for WMTQ (88.1 Elmira). The 90-watt signal will broadcast from Harris Hill, just west of Elmira.

Up north, there's a tower under construction just off the side of US 11 in Antwerp, south of Gouverneur. When completed, the tower will be home to WSLG (90.5 Gouverneur), the latest addition to North Country Public Radio's extensive public radio network across the North Country. Last week, the station presented an audio postcard from the winch operator who's helping erect the new tower; you can hear it here.


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*There are few people working in radio or TV in MASSACHUSETTS with as much media experience as Paul LaCamera. Son of famed Boston Record-American TV critic Anthony LaCamera, Paul began his career at that newspaper before moving into television, where he joined WCVB-TV (Channel 5) at its launch in 1972. LaCamera spent 33 years working his way up the management ranks at Channel 5, eventually serving for a dozen years as the station's president and general manager and drawing acclaim for running one of the finest local TV stations in the country.

LaCamera retired from WCVB in 2005, only to start a new chapter in his career by taking over as general manager of WBUR-FM (90.9) later that year, charged with restoring stability to a station buffeted by the turbulent ouster of longtime leader Jane Christo.

And after five years at that job, during which he's been widely credited with bringing WBUR back on an even keel, LaCamera announced Friday afternoon that he's ready to retire for real. At age 67, he tells the Boston Globe it's time for fresh leadership at WBUR: "I am a guy who loves newspapers and kitchen radios, and that’s not necessarily the kind of leadership that WBUR is going to need in the future."

LaCamera will remain on the BU payroll as university administrator for public radio, a role he describes as "ambassadorial" to ease the transition to a yet-to-be-named successor.

*Across town, WFNX (101.7 Lynn) is once again in the hunt for a new vice president of broadcast operations now that Mike Tierney is leaving. Tierney came to WFNX just a year ago, but he's leaving to seek out new work that's closer to his wife, Tara, who works in New York and London. Tierney will exit WFNX after the station's big holiday concert in early December.

Veteran Boston TV anchor Frank Mallicoat is heading west for a new job at CBS' KPIX (Channel 5) in San Francisco, his hometown. Mallicoat came to Boston in 1992 from WMUR in Manchester, N.H. to do sports at WLVI (Channel 56); he became WLVI's lead anchor before the station's news operation was shuttered a few years back. Most recently, Mallicoat has been a weekend anchor at Fox's WFXT (Channel 25).

Another Boston TV veteran is moving into academia. RD Sahl is leaving New England Cable News next year to teach journalism at Boston University. Sahl spent many years at WHDH-TV (Channel 7) before joining NECN in 1997, where he's now the main primetime anchor. NECN hasn't yet announced a replacement for Sahl.

*Veteran WBZ sportscaster Bob Lobel is already back on the radio on the weekends in Boston via WXKS (1200 Newton) - and now he's adding a weekday show in NEW HAMPSHIRE. NERW has learned that December 1 will bring the launch of a daily Lobel sports talk show on WTPL (107.7 Hillsboro), where he'll be heard from 10 AM until noon in the slot now occupied by Dennis Miller.

*The VERMONT Association of Broadcasters held its annual awards banquet on Saturday, inducting WDEV (550/96.1) afternoon personality Jack Donovan and former WFAD/WCVM owner Mark Brady into its hall of fame. The VAB presented distinguished service awards to WCAX-TV chief news photographer Jim Oliver and to WPTZ-TV meteorologist Tom Messner. The VAB's Broadcaster of the Year award went to the news team at WCAX-TV for their coverage of the deployment of Vermont troops to Afghanistan, and community service awards were presented to WBTZ (99.9) and WIZN (106.7).

*Just a bit of MAINE news this week: community broadcaster WERU (89.9 Blue Hill) will be returning to the Bangor airwaves now that it's been granted a construction permit to change the frequency of its translator there. W275AE (102.9) was forced off the air when adjacent-channel WZON-FM (103.1 Dover-Foxcroft) increased power; the translator will return to the air on 99.9.

*The rumors had been flying for a few weeks, and last week Blount Communications made it official, doubling its CONNECTICUT presence with the $500,000 purchase of WDZK (1550 Bloomfield) from Radio Disney, which took the signal silent earlier this fall. The Hartford-market signal will become a religious station, meshing nicely with Blount's other holdings in the region including WFIF (1500 Milford) in the New Haven market and WARV (1590 Warwick) in the Providence market.

There's a Catholic signal coming to the area as well: Legion of Christ College in Cheshire has been granted a construction permit for a new signal on 90.9 in Wethersfield. It will run 1620 watts/128' DA from a site just off US 6/44 on the east side of Manchester.

WTIC (1080 Hartford) talk host Sebastian has some legal problems this week: he's one of 13 people charged with running a sports betting ring. Sebastian, whose real name is Joseph Schlosser, is charged with professional gambling and transmitting gambling information. He's heard on WTIC Monday and Thursday evenings in an NFL pre-game show that's always been heavy on talk of point spreads and betting lines; the show didn't air on Thursday, and WTIC's not saying whether he'll be back or not.

*It's not just Sebastian in trouble with the law - a corruption investigation in RHODE ISLAND has snagged Tanya Cruise, the midday jock at Citadel's WWLI (105.1 Providence). Cruise, whose real name is Lori Sergiacomi, was one of four people indicted on Thursday in connection with an alleged insurance-fraud scheme that followed the heavy rains and flooding that hit Rhode Island in March. After Sergiacomi's North Providence home was flooded, the indictment accuses her of conspiring with three men, including a North Providence city councilman, to damage her swimming pool to create a fraudulent insurance claim. She's off the air while the case makes its way through the courts.

A veteran Ocean State broadcaster has died. George Allen began his career at WPEP (1570 Taunton), but he was best known for his TV work as the host of "Dialing for Dollars" on WTEV (Channel 6, now WLNE) and WPRI (Channel 12). Allen also worked over the years at WLKW (990), WPRO (630) and WSAR (1480 Fall River). He died last Monday (Nov. 15), a year after suffering a stroke. Allen was 71.

*And all over the region, this appeared to be the big week for many stations to make the flip to all-Christmas formats: WLTW (106.7 New York), WODS (103.3 Boston), WROR (105.7 Framingham-Boston), WBEB (101.1 Philadelphia), WWSW-FM (94.5 Pittsburgh), WSHH (99,7 Pittsburgh) and CHFI (98.1 Toronto) all made the switch late in the week. In smaller markets, flips included WLEV (100.7 Allentown PA), WMXW (103.3 Vestal-Binghamton NY), WJYE (96.1) and WTSS (102.5) in Buffalo, WXKC (99.9 Erie PA), WLAN (1390 Lancaster PA), WBMW (106.5 Ledyard-New London CT), WALK-FM (97.5 Patchogue NY), WRNQ (92.1 Poughkeepsie NY), WWLI (105.1 Providence RI), WRMM-FM (101.3 Rochester NY), WYYY (94.5 Syracuse NY) and WSRS (96.1 Worcester MA).

Still not quite in the holiday shopping mood? Come visit the store beginning Friday morning for special deals on our Tower Site Calendar 2011 and other great radio gifts...

*And in a quiet week in CANADA, there's one bit of new-station news to report: 50-watt CKBG (107.3) is now on the air in Middle Musquodoboit, Nova Scotia, testing with a format it calls "Blue Garage Classic Mix," a melange of rock, classic rock, oldies and country. The station's official launch is slated for the end of the month.

(Where's Middle Musquodoboit? It's about 35 miles northeast of Halifax.)

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.

November 23, 2009 -

  • A pioneering figure in RHODE ISLAND broadcasting has died. Art Lake came to Providence's WJAR radio (920, now WHJJ) in April 1944 as an announcer, putting him in position to be part of the on-air team that launched WJAR-TV (Channel 11, now 10) in 1949. In the station's early days, Lake (like most announcers of the era) did a little bit of everything, reading newscasts, hosting entertainment shows, working the announce booth. But he quickly specialized in one area: weather forecasting. For decades, Lake was the weather in southern New England, delivering forecasts on WJAR-TV's evening news and, starting in 1985, the station's morning show. Lake went into semi-retirement a decade ago, though he returned to WJAR for his 60th anniversary with the station in 2004 and continued to read birthday announcements on WJAR's "Sunrise Show" until health problems forced him to retire for good in 2006. Lake died early Sunday morning, at age 85.
  • In MASSACHUSETTS, we know a little more about what's in store for listeners at WGBH (89.7 Boston) and WCRB (99.5 Lowell) when the former takes over operation of the latter just a week from tomorrow. The new "All Classical 99.5" will retain several familiar voices from the WCRB staff, including Laura Carlo in morning drive and Ray Brown in afternoons. WGBH's Cathy Fuller will handle midday duties on weekdays, and at least for now, it appears the station will be automated from 6 PM until 5 AM. WGBH's Brian McCreath will provide a local voice on Saturday and Sunday mornings, followed at 11 AM on Saturdays by the syndicated "At the Top" show, also heard at 5 PM Sundays. Saturday nights will continue to be the home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, a WCRB staple. It also appears that WCRB's classical programming will replace the WGBH feed on WNCK (89.5 Nantucket); there's no word yet whether there will be a similar flip for WGBH's Beacon Hill translator, W242AA (96.3).
  • There's also not much yet to report about a new schedule for 89.7 - and indeed, it appears WGBH has not yet finalized the news/talk lineup that will replace daytime classical and the weekend folk and blues shows that go away next weekend. A live clearance for NPR's Diane Rehm show (currently heard in Boston only for one hout late at night on WBUR) seems likely for the late-morning hours, but the rest of the day appears to be in flux so far; expect a more definite schedule next week.
  • There's an interesting translator development in upstate New York - Geneva and Seneca Falls, to be exact, where the Finger Lakes Radio Group is trading away 1000-watt daytimer WSFW (1110 Seneca Falls) to Calvary Chapel of Twin Falls in exchange for translator W214BR (90.7 Geneva). When the deal closes, Calvary will get much broader coverage of the northern Finger Lakes (and a long-term sweetheart lease deal on the WSFW transmitter site) - and Alan Bishop and George Kimble will take ownership of the translator that already operates from the tower of their WGVA (1240 Geneva). With a move to the commercial part of the FM dial, W214BR will presumably begin relaying WGVA, just as Finger Lakes already does with FM translators for its other AM signals in the region. WSFW's current visitor-information programming will likely go away when the AM signal becomes a Calvary religious outlet.
  • And we're sorry to report the untimely death of Dene Hallam, who started his broadcast career at the old WRNW (107.1 Briarcliff Manor) back in the mid-70s, when that station was turning out a lot of future big-name talent (Howard somebody, among others), then went on to become a major force in country radio. At the age of 28, Hallam took over from Ed Salamon in the PD chair at New York's WHN (1050) at the end of 1981; a little more than a year later, he moved to country competitor WKHK (106.7), where he remained until the flip to WLTW in 1984. From there, Hallam added more big country calls to his resume, including WDAF in Kansas City, WWWW in Detroit and KKBQ in Houston; most recently he'd been in Atlanta, working as operations manager at Citadel's WKHX/WYAY and then programming the Moby in the Morning syndicated morning show. Hallam died Friday in an Atlanta hospital after spending several days in a coma. He was just 56.
  • A venerable PENNSYLVANIA TV personality is calling it quits. Dave Roberts, who's spent 31 years doing weather at Philadelphia's WPVI-TV (Channel 6), announced last week that he'll retire next month after one last stint as co-host of the station's Thanksgiving Day parade and a few more weeks doing weather. Roberts' last day at the weather desk will be December 11, capping a 56-year career that began in his student days at Syracuse University's WAER (88.3), where he went on the air back in 1954.
  • As "Dave Thomas," Roberts became a fixture on the Buffalo broadcast scene, working at the old WBUF-TV (Channel 17) and then, after a few years in the Army working for AFRTS, at WKBW-TV (Channel 7). Beginning in 1961, he was an iconic part of the Channel 7 team, hosting "Rocketship 7" and "Dialing for Dollars" and doing the weather on "Eyewitness News" alongside the legendary Irv Weinstein. Under owner Cap Cities, many popular WKBW personalities found their way to Philadelphia and then-sister station WPVI, and Roberts was no exception, making the move in 1978, initially as host of "AM Philadelphia," then taking over weather duties in 1983 after the skydiving accident that claimed the life of Jim O'Brien.
  • In recent years, Roberts was inducted into both the Philadelphia Broadcast Pioneers and Buffalo Broadcasters halls of fame - and his own fame in Buffalo and Philadelphia was echoed on a national level by his son David, who used the family's real name - Boreanaz - as he became a star of shows such as "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Bones."
  • A longtime CONNECTICUT station owner has died. Daniel W. Kops, Sr. moved from the newspaper business in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania to the radio business in New Haven after World War II, where he became a partner in WAVZ (1300), forming Kops-Monahan Communications. That station group expanded in time to include WKCI (101.3 Hamden), as well as WTRY/WDKC-FM in Albany, New York, and while the Albany stations were sold in 1972, Kops-Monahan remained in business in New Haven until the mid-80s. Kops, a Cornell University graduate, served on the NAB board and the board of the National United Way Association. He'd retired to Palm Beach, Florida, but returned to Connecticut, where he died Nov. 14 at the Connecticut Hospice in Branford, at age 92.

November 21, 2005 -

  • It was a busy week for CANADA's regulators, as they denied a closely-watched TV application and announced hearings on several radio applications, including three in the nation's biggest market.
  • The denied application was TV Niagara's, for a new independent station that would have broadcast on channel 22 from a site near St. Catharines, Ontario, from which it would have served not only Niagara Region itself but also the rest of the "Golden Horseshoe" around the western end of Lake Ontario, including Toronto. In turning down TVN's application, the CRTC said it was concerned that the company hadn't budgeted enough to pay the costs of operating a TV station with the ambitious schedule it proposed, including some 36 hours a week of local news and prime-time movies. In particular, the CRTC cited the experience of the former Toronto One (now SUN-TV), which debuted with similar ambitions a few years back and ran into devastating financial problems that eventually led owner Craig Media to be sold.
  • NERW suspects we haven't heard the last of the TV Niagara folks, though; they've already told the CRTC that they believe they can run a more economical operation than Toronto One did, and they have a compelling case to make for the relatively underserved nature of Niagara, in the shadows of the much larger Toronto/Hamilton and Buffalo markets.
  • That was just one piece of a busy week at the CRTC, though. It approved the move of CKDO (1350 Oshawa) to 1580, which will allow the oldies outlet to go from 10 kW day/5 kW night (with a fairly tight directional pattern) to 10 kW fulltime on a Canadian clear channel. (1580 was long occupied by CBJ in Chicoutimi, Quebec, and was later applied for by CHUC Cobourg, which instead is moving to FM.)
  • And it announced a public hearing to be held January 16 at which it will review a number of interesting applications. In Toronto, Rainbow Media applies for 50 watts/131.5 meters on 103.9 for "Rainbow Radio," which would feature programming aimed at the city's gay and lesbian community. Rainbow is owned by the Evanov group, which also operates second-adjacent CIDC (Z 103.5) in Orangeville.
  • Another Toronto application comes from Canadian Hellenic Toronto Radio, which wants 1000 watts on 1690 for an ethnic outlet that would be largely aimed at the city's Mediterranean population. A third comes from "World Radio," which wants 1 kW/276.8 meters, directional, for a station programming "world beat" music.
  • Away from the halls of the CRTC, there's other news to report as well. In Toronto, French community station CHOQ (105.1) is testing its signal from its new transmitter site at 6 Forest Laneway. "Radio-Toronto" began testing Novemner 7 and will wrap up the tests November 28, in preparation for beginning regular programming soon. (It's been on the air under the CKIE calls for several short-term special event broadcasts already.)
  • Moving stateside, NEW YORK got Christmas music in earnest this week - both in the west, where Buffalo's WJYE (96.1) and WTSS (102.5) made the flip, and in the city, where WLTW (106.7 New York) made its earliest flip yet.
  • WLTW also lost one of its longest-running voices, as the station parted ways with Steven E. Roy, who was there at the beginning, in 1984, and who'd become an afternoon fixture at "Lite." There's no word yet on a permanent replacement, or on Roy's next destination.
  • In NEW JERSEY, mornings are a little less local at WBUD (1260 Trenton), as the Millennium Radio Group station sheds the services of news guys John Weber and Ed Salvas. WBUD says it plans to continue its "Mercer News Morning" block, but we're hearing that Weber and Salvas won't be replaced, and that the future for WBUD is more satellite and less local (even the local voicetracking that the station's been running.)
  • In MASSACHUSETTS, Michael Graham's settling in as the new afternoon talker on WTKK (96.9 Boston), filling the slot last occupied by Jay Severin, whose future whereabouts on the Boston dial remain up in the air. Graham's last two gigs didn't end well - he was driven out of WMAL, Washington earlier this year after controversial remarks about Muslims, and he was fired from WBT, Charlotte a few years earlier after some tasteless remarks about the Columbine shootings. Will he fare any better in Boston - or is that sort of high-profile controversy exactly what WTKK is banking on?

November 20, 2000 -

  • Just in time for Thanksgiving, the radio waves of Western NEW YORK have brought forth a cornucopia of news...and where better to begin than at the far western extreme of the NERW listening area, out in the Jamestown area? That's where WKZA (106.9 Lakewood) hit the air over the weekend, with a signal being heard as far north as the Buffalo suburbs. Calling itself "Kiss," and IDing with Jamestown and Warren PA, we're told WKZA is running a modern rock format. We're hoping to catch it for ourselves as we head west towards Indiana later this week for a Very NERW Thanksgiving. (More on that later on...)
  • [And this update: We ended up driving through Jamestown itself as we avoided the snowed-in Buffalo area on Tuesday, and had plenty of time to listen to "Kiss." It's actually a CHR/Pop outlet, operating from the Hotel Jamestown and sounding pretty good...]
  • Meanwhile in Buffalo, the on-again, off-again sale of WNEQ (Channel 23) is again very much "on," and this time in a way that promises to avoid the earlier legal problems encountered by the seller, the Western New York Public Broadcasting Authority. This time, the buyer is LIN, parent company of Buffalo's CBS affiliate, WIVB (Channel 4). LIN plans to move channel 23 to WIVB's North Buffalo studios and program it as a commercial independent, complete with a WIVB-produced 10 PM newscast. More on those plans in a moment -- first a bit of history: WNYPBA put WNEQ on the air in May 1987 as a second outlet, to complement existing public TV station WNED-TV (Channel 17). A decade or so later, though, the impending costs of the digital TV conversion at WNED (not to mention the debt load of WNED's palatial new downtown studio complex) led WNYPBA to put the second station up for sale. Sinclair Broadcasting stepped forward, offering $33 million for the station in May 1998. WNEQ would have become the duopoly partner to Sinclair's Fox affiliate, WUTV (Channel 29) -- but instead, the deal ended up facing a serious challenge, thanks to the unusual licensing arrangement for Buffalo's public broadcasters. WNED, the primary station on channel 17, actually operates on a commercial allocation, a vestige of its 1950s past as NBC O&O WBUF(TV). When NBC shut down its UHF experiment, it donated channel 17 to what became WNYPBA, but the channel remained commercial. In order to sell WNEQ, on the noncommercial-reserved channel 23, WNYPBA needed to persuade the FCC to move the noncommercial reservation from channel 23 to channel 17, turning 23 into the commercial channel. It may sound like a bunch of legal minutiae, but it took the FCC over a year to approve the move, and appeals from concerned WNEQ viewers now have that approval tied up in federal court. The uncertainty, coupled with Sinclair's own financial problems, brought the Sinclair sale to an end last year. (A few months later, Sinclair instead bought WB affiliate WNYO (Channel 49), for $51.5 million.)
  • Which brings us back to LIN and its WNEQ purchase. Here's how it works: Sometime soon (perhaps as early as January, speculates the Buffalo News), LIN will begin leasing channel 23 from WNYPBA. Once the lawsuit over channel 23 is resolved, LIN will pay $26.2 million, in two annual installments, for WNEQ (less whatever amount it's already paid in lease fees). And here's the kicker: If WNED loses the lawsuit and channel 23 has to stay noncommerical, WNYPBA will instead sell WNED's channel 17 to LIN, bumping the sale price up to $31.2 million for the stronger signal. (That's OK, WNYPBA president Don Boswell tells the News, because with DTV the present channel assignments will disappear anyway...though NERW notes that most stations will continue using their NTSC channels as a "virtual" channel number.)
  • A final historical note: If LIN does end up with channel 17, it will close a forty-year circle in Buffalo broadcasting history. The present WIVB studios at 2077 Elmwood Avenue were built in the late 1950s by NBC, as a state-of-the-art studio for none other than WBUF-TV 17! When WBUF folded, the building sat vacant for several years before becoming the home of channel 4, then WBEN-TV. The tower out back served as the channel 17 tower for years, until the current WNED/WNEQ site on Grand Island was built.
  • With that, we move on to Elmira, where the city's oldest radio station is picking up stakes and moving its studios down the road to Corning. WENY (1230) and WENY-FM (92.7) are joining Eolin Broadcasting's four stations (WCBA AM-FM, WCLI, and WGMM) at the "Radio Works" facility on Davis Road beginning next Monday (Nov. 27). In the process, they'll drop their current formats (oldies on the AM, soft rock "Y 92-7" on FM) and begin simulcasting two of the Eolin outlets. WENY(AM) will join WCLI (1450) as "Two-Way Radio for the Twin Tiers," with a mostly-satellite talk format. On the FM side, WENY-FM will simulcast WCBA-FM (98.7)'s AC format as the "Elmira-Corning Crystal Network," with WCBA-FM's Jack and Bob in the morning.
  • We'll leave New York with an interesting rumor: AllAccess says, quoting M Street, that WEVD (1050) could be near an $85 million sale -- and the buyer isn't Clear Channel or Infinity. (NERW wonders: could it be ABC and "ESPN Radio 1050," following on ABC's recent buy of LA's KRLA?)
  • On we go, to VERMONT and the launch of a new oldies station. You read it here first (NERW, 10/16/2000): the former WGLV (104.3 Hartford) has moved from its interim sports format (simulcast with sisters WNHV 910 and WTSV 1230) to oldies, under the calls WWOD, "Oldies 104."
  • Across the river in NEW HAMPSHIRE, Bob Vinikoor has flipped his WNTK (1020 Newport) from talk to what he's calling "Home Town Music," a mix of classic country, folk, and blues. Fredie Dee is doing mornings on the station, while Rush Limbaugh continues to be heard from 12 to 3, simulcast with WNTK-FM (99.7 New London), where the talk format lives on.
  • One story, and one only, from CANADA this week: The AM 1220 outlet in Cornwall, Ontario, vacant since June 1999, is back on the air testing. 1220 was CJSS, but that station and its country format moved to FM (as "101.9 the Blaze"), leaving in its wake an application by owner Tri-Co Broadcasting for a "new" adult standards outlet. To be known as CJUL, "the Jewel," the new 1220 will reportedly make its official debut Thursday (Nov. 24), and we're told personalities such as Jack Curran and Chuck Phillips (of Montreal's defunct CIQC) will be part of it.

New England Radio Watch, November 18, 1995

  • As expected, the CBS shareholders voted overwhelmingly (99.5% yes) to approve the $5+ billion purchase by Westinghouse. The only remaining hurdle is FCC approval of the transfer of the CBS broadcast licenses...and THAT will have to wait for the FCC
    to reopen. The New England implications come here in Boston, where Westinghouse will add CBS's WODS-FM ("Oldies 103") to its WBZ(AM) and WBZ-TV. Additionally, Westinghouse will get CBS's newly-purchased WPRI-TV Providence RI, and I believe a minor waiver will be needed because of the overlap between WBZ-TV and WPRI-TV. The most immediate consequence of the transaction will be the disappearance of the "Group W" name after four decades. The entire group of 39 radio stations and more than a dozen TVs will be known as CBS. This is going to take some getting used to... (inevitable disclaimer -- I work for Group W, I mean, CBS, but I do not speak for them).
  • A minor correction: The low-power TV in Providence is not officially WRIW(LP), at least not yet. The FCC database still lists it as W23AS. However, the Providence translator of WLNE-TV 6 New Bedford MA is now known as WLNE(LP), from
  • Congratulations to all the winners of this year's "Achievement in Radio" awards, handed out this week. WBZ's David Brudnoy won the A.I.R. Lifetime Achievement Award. Other winners included Kiss 108's Matty Siegel as best morning drive personality, Lady D of Jam'n 94.5 (WJMN) for afternoon drive, and WBMX's Joe Cortese for middays.
  • A bit less local programming these days on Boston's business station, WBNW 590 (simulcast on WPNW 550 Pawtucket RI), as Jeannine Graf has departed her 1-3 pm "New England Business" program. Graf says she simply chose not to renew her contract. The program has been replaced by the Dolans from the WOR Network.

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