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December 6, 2010

NJN Wins Temporary Reprieve

*Its long term future remains unclear, but NEW JERSEY officials now say the state-owned NJN TV and radio networks may stay on the air past the end of the year, when Governor Chris Christie had planned to pull state subsidy in a move that would likely have meant the end of 41 years of NJN broadcasts.

Christie tells Newark's Star-Ledger that he's working with lawmakers to extend state funding into 2011, buying some time for continued negotiations with other public broadcasters who might take over NJN's operations.

But while Christie still hopes to save the state the $11 million or so it spends each year on subsidies for NJN, his plan doesn't appear to include selling the NJN broadcast licenses. Instead, Christie tells the paper he'd like to retain the licenses under new management, possibly that of existing public broadcasters in adjoining areas such as New York's WNET and WNYC and Philadelphia's WHYY.

NJN employees could know more about their future later this week after the New Jersey Public Broadcasting Authority meets in Trenton and after a state Senate committee considers a bill that would create a bi-partisan committee to oversee a new management deal for the network. NJN acting executive director Janice Selinger tells the Star-Ledger that it would take about $2.5 million in additional state funding to keep NJN on the air through the end of its fiscal year June 30, and she says Christie administration officials have indicated to her that they'd be willing to make that money available if there's a plan in place for NJN's future.

*Listeners in some parts of southern New Jersey are hearing a new FM signal on the air.

WKNZ (88.7) is now testing from Harrington, Delaware, where it's preparing for an official sign-on Tuesday mornng at 10. "88.7 the Bridge" will be a contemporary Christian station owned by Eagle's Nest Fellowship Church, and it's putting at least a fringe signal across Delaware Bay to Bridgeton, Millville and Cape May.

*The launch of a new airstaff on NEW YORK's WWPR (Power 105.1) will begin next Monday with a new morning show on the Clear Channel urban station. As had been rumored, former Philly jock "Charlamagne That God" will host the show, along with current Power afternoon jock DJ Envy and Sirius' Angela Yee.

In the Hudson Valley, broadcaster John Katonah is having a bad week. The Times-Herald Record reports that Katonah was extradited from Florida to face charges that he violated a restraining order issued against him by family members. Katonah, who owns WNYX (88.1 Montgomery) and a string of translators and tower sites, was also charged with DWI and criminal trespassing earlier in the fall.

*Here in Rochester, it was a busy weekend at the Pinnacle Hill tower farm that's home to most of the city's TV and FM signals. NERW was there in the cold and snow early Sunday morning as a crew from Fred Nudd's construction company (including the nonagenarian Nudd himself) used a 300-foot crane to begin dismantling the top of the tower that's been home to WXXI-TV (Channel 21) and WUHF (Channel 31) since 1980. After three decades with the distinctive candelabra at the center of the Pinnacle Hill complex, the WXXI tower is "topless," at least for now; later this week, crews will remove the horizontal crossbar from the top of the tower. And sometime next year, if all goes well, the tower will be topped off by a new antenna for WXXI-TV's channel 16 signal, now broadcast from a side-mounted antenna.

Across town, Jann Nyffeler is the new morning host on WGMC (90.1 Greece) starting today, moving longtime morning host Joelle Van Buren to middays. Nyffeler has been a volunteer host on "Jazz 90.1," and she'll keep her day job doing PR for the George Eastman House.

*In Buffalo, tonight's debut of "Don't Touch That Dial!," WNED-TV's documentary on the history of Buffalo broadcasting, will be a social event: Steve Cichon's is joining to sponsor a viewing party at Founding Father's Pub in downtown Buffalo. The party starts at 7, and the broadcast starts at 8. (And we send our best wishes to Steve, who had quite the scare this weekend when an out-of-control driver plowed into his neighbor's house, totalling Steve's car en route. Thankfully, nobody was hurt.)

Jim Kelley was better known as a print journalist than as a broadcaster, but in many years of covering the Sabres for the Buffalo News, Kelley also found his way to the airwaves on a regular basis, appearing on the old WNSA (107.7), WBEN (930) and across the border on CJCL (FAN 590) in Toronto. Kelley died last Tuesday at 61 after fighting pancreatic cancer.


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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*There's a new FM translator en route to the North Shore of MASSACHUSETTS, or so it would seem from the $80,000 sale of what's now W291CC (106.1 Sanford, Maine) from Dennis Jackson to Port Broadcasting, LLC. That's the Carl Strube/Pete Falconi group that owns WNBP (1450 Newburyport), and one can reasonably assume they plan to hop the translator down the coast to Cape Ann. That's technically possible, but under current FCC policy, which grants a translator's first move quickly and then delays subsequent moves by months or even years, it's a more challenging prospect than it was when another translator made the long move west from Cape Ann to Fitchburg last year.

On a slow news week last week, we spent a fair amount of time examining the rumored sale of WFNX to Entercom, a story about which we expressed a fair amount of skepticism. It turns out that skepticism was justified; both Entercom and the Phoenix have vehemently denied there's any validity to the rumors. Was the story planted in (or by) the Weekly Dig as a slap at the Dig's rival, WFNX's parent Boston Phoenix? That, we don't know - but this we can say with some certainty: even if Entercom's WEEI strategy really doesn't involve FM (as appears to be the case every time one of these WEEI-to-FM rumors proves groundless), the radio community's not likely to stop talking about the topic, especially as WEEI continues to face strong FM competition from WBZ-FM.

On TV, there's a new morning show coming to Sunbeam's WLVI (Channel 56). The syndicated "Morning Buzz" aired on WSBK a few years back and has been a fixture on former WSBK sister station WLWC (Channel 28) in New Bedford; when it debuts on WLVI January 3, Boston will be the largest market for the show.

*In MAINE, WWLN (90.5 Lincoln) signed on November 29; it's relaying "God's Country" from WMDR-FM (88.9 Oakland).

*VERMONT Public Radio has completed its upgrade of WRVT (88.7 Rutland), boosting the station's horizontal ERP to 4 kW to take advantage of the lesser protection that needs to be offered to Schenectady's WRGB (Channel 6) now that it's digital instead of analog. And while we're mentioning VPR, we neglected to note the grant of a construction permit for a new VPR signal in Brattleboro. WVBA will be the callsign of the new signal on 88.9 there.

*A CONNECTICUT FM translator is on the move. W248AB (97.5 Bolton) carries the "La Bomba" Spanish-language programming that nominally originates on sister station WMRQ (104.1)'s HD2; its application to move to 97.1 would come with a power increase from 60 to 100 watts and would alleviate co-channel interference with WALK-FM on Long Island.

Two Nutmeg State public broadcasters are among a dozen around the country to benefit from a $2.2 million matching grant from the Newman's Own Foundation. The charity founded by Paul Newman, who made his home in Connecticut, is giving money to Fairfield's WSHU and to Connecticut Public TV, as well as to Albany's WAMC and New York's WNET.


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*A Catholic radio station in northeast PENNSYLVANIA faces a big fine from the FCC after two inspections turned up no staff presence at its main studio.

WQOR (750 Olyphant) operates from a seminary in Pittston, and when FCC inspectors showed up there in November 2009 and again a month later, they found a locked door and seminary staffers telling them the station was usually unoccupied. That resulted in a $10,000 Notice of Apparent Liability against licensee JMJ Radio Inc. from the FCC, and WQOR is now asking listeners for help to pay the fine.

In Pittsburgh, there's a new operations manager for CBS Radio's cluster. Mark Anderson comes back to the Steel City, where he programmed Clear Channel's WKST-FM from 2003-2005, after stints in St. Louis and Cincinnati. When Anderson starts in Pittsburgh in two weeks, he'll be programming WZPT (100.7) and WDSY (107.9).

On TV, John Fedko is retiring after 23 years at NBC affiliate WPXI (Channel 11), most recently as sports director. Fedko will continue to host the station's "Skylights" high-school football coverage each fall.

Harrisburg public radio station WITF (89.5) is shifting its Lancaster translator up the dial. W259AA (99.7) will get a boost from 10 to 38 watts by moving to 99.9.

Four Rivers Community Broadcasting ("Word-FM") has calls for its newest construction permit: WZXY (90.7 Spring Grove) will serve the Hanover area when it signs on.

And back in Pittsburgh, they're mourning Bruce Keidan, the former Post-Gazette sports columnist who died in Florida on Tuesday (Nov. 30) at 67. In addition to his print work, Keidan did sports talk on WJAS (1320) and sister station WPTT (1360).

*In CANADA, Haliburton Broadcasting is again expanding its southern Ontario reach with the purchase of Niagara Falls' CFLZ (105.1) and CKEY (101.1) from Andrew Ferri's Niagara Radio Group. Haliburton is already in the process of buying CJCS/CHGK in Stratford and CFSF in Sturgeon Falls, and Haliburton president Christopher Grossman says the addition of the Niagara stations "compliments HBG’s Southern Ontario growth strategy of targeting the upscale tourism market." No purchase price has been disclosed, and the deal doesn't include Ferri's CJRN (710), which broadcasts tourism information.

In Hamilton, PD Derm Carnduff has parted ways with Corus' CING (Vinyl 95.3) and CJXY (Y108); no replacement has been named.

Up in Orillia, Bayshore Broadcasting has begun on-air tests at CISO (Sunshine 89.1), where an airstaff is now in place. According to Milkman UnLimited, Sunshine's morning team will be "Married in the Morning with Dan and Leslie," followed in middays by Heather Gleason, news director Jim Burchard's "Twin Lakes Today" at noon, and Tony Hann in the afternoons.

There's another addition to the airstaff at Toronto's CJRT ("JAZZ.FM91"), where Brad Barker moves from nights to afternoons, remaining operations manager and music director as well.

In Ottawa - well, actually across the river in Gatineau, Quebec - CJEU (1670) is shifting identity and direction. What started as "Radio Enfant" is now "Oxygene Radio," and it's working alternative rock into its programming mix at night.

*In Halifax, Evanov's CKHY (105.1) has been granted a power increase; the new "Live 105" will move from the CBC tower to the CTVglobemedia tower that's already home to its sister station CKHZ (Z103.5), and in the process will go from 45 kW DA to 100 kW non-directional, dropping in height from 224.5 to 185.1 meters.

And north of Montreal, the Association des Églises baptistes reformées du Québec is applying for a 200-watt relay transmitter to carry the religious programming of CFOI (96.9 Quebec City) to St-Jérôme on 102.9.

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.

December 7, 2009 -

  • The big news out of NEW YORK on Thursday came as no surprise to anyone who'd been even vaguely aware of media-business developments - but the official word that Comcast was indeed acquiring a majority stake in NBC Universal didn't bring much clarity to the questions that continue to surround the deal as it heads to regulators for what's likely to be a lengthy approval process. Much of the transaction, including Comcast's acquisition of the cable networks and Universal production business, will be outside the purview of the FCC, and of this column as well. The FCC will, however, have the chance to weigh in on the transfer of NBC's broadcast licenses from GE to the Comcast-controlled joint venture, including three owned-and-operated NBC TV stations and two Telemundo TV stations in NERW-land.
  • While there was some speculation that Comcast might seek to take NBC out of the broadcast business, perhaps turning NBC into a high-profile cable channel, the announcement of the merger played up the importance of the local stations. "We intend to preserve and enrich the output of local news, local public affairs, and other public interest programming on NBC O&O stations," it read. That puts the ball in the FCC's court, where there's sure to be close scrutiny of the deal - especially in Philadelphia, where NBC-owned WCAU (Channel 10) operates in a market that's not only home to Comcast headquarters but is dominated by Comcast-owned cable systems. The situation is somewhat different in New York, where WNBC (Channel 4) and Telemundo's WNJU (Channel 47) have relatively little Comcast presence in the market, which is dominated by Time Warner and Cablevision. In Boston, Telemundo's New Hampshire-based WNEU is a very minor player in a Comcast-dominated cable market, and in Connecticut, where Comcast is a major cable player, NBC had been attempting to sell WVIT (Channel 30). There's no longer an absolute prohibition on cross-ownership of cable systems and broadcast stations within a market, but there are still plenty of reasons for regulators to be concerned. (How, for instance, might a Comcast cable system handle a retransmission dispute with a CBS- or ABC-owned station that's competing with its own NBC station in the market?)
  • Curtis Sliwa has a new home on the dial: after 18 years at WABC (770 New York), he's signed on with Salem's WNYM (970 Hackensack NJ) to become the new morning man at "970 the Apple," beginning January 11. Sliwa's will be the first local show at the station, which has been carrying a slate of Salem's syndicated talkers since its launch last year. That includes Bill Bennett's "Morning in America," which will lose its New York clearance when Sliwa signs on. Will Sliwa's debut bring some attention to "The Apple," which upgraded its signal to 50 kW daytime but hasn't made much of a mark on the New York radio scene since the format flip? Stay tuned...
  • Radio People on the Move: New York hip-hop jock DJ Envy is changing teams. After eight years at Emmis' WQHT (Hot 97), including a stint as morning co-host with Miss Jones and more recent work in afternoon drive, Envy has moved to Clear Channel's WWPR (Power 105), where he's now doing afternoons. That 2-6 PM shift was formerly held by Malikha Mallette, who moves to mornings with Ed Lover.
  • Utica's WRUN (1150) has changed programming. Last Monday marked not only the end of November, but also the end of the station's ownership by Albany's WAMC. The Utica AM station marked the western edge of WAMC's expansion when it went on the air with public radio in 2005, but it became surplus property after WAMC's decade-old application for a Utica-area FM facility was granted in 2008. WAMC-FM (90.3 Remsen) signed on a year ago, and back in July, WAMC traded the AM signal (plus $20,000) to Bud Williamson's Digital Radio Broadcasting in exchange for a Cooperstown translator. The deal closed last week, and now Williamson is operating the AM station, running automated current hit music for the moment (or so our ears on the ground in the Utica market tell us...)
  • As Craig Fox and Sam Furco challenge Clear Channel's Syracuse-market country behemoth WBBS (104.7 Fulton) with their new WOLF-FM (105.1 DeRuyter), they're adding several more signals to the "Wolf" mix. The country music is being heard on W252AC (98.3 Camillus), which has moved to the WOLF (1490) tower next to the station's studios near downtown Syracuse and has boosted power to 250 watts. And as of last Monday, "Wolf" replaced "Movin'" on WMVN (96.7 Oswego), which has changed calls to WWLF-FM. The "Movin" rhythmic AC format remains in place on WMVU (100.3 Sylvan Beach), which changes calls to WMVN, and on Syracuse translator W243AB (96.5 Westvale).
  • In southern RHODE ISLAND, WXNI (1230 Westerly) is now under new management. It took more than three years for Chris DiPaola to wend his way through the legal maelstrom that surrounded the station, which was tied up in the fight between Rhode Island state officials and Boston University. But now that Rhode Island Public Broadcasting has been fully separated from its erstwhile parent organization, BU's WBUR - and now that WRNI-FM (102.7 Narragansett Pier) is fully covering the southern part of the state, rendering the need for the 1 kW AM signal moot - DiPaola, doing business as Diponti Communications, has closed on his $350,000 purchase of the AM station. As of November 16, DiPaola's local programming has replaced the Providence-based WRNI feed on the AM 1230 signal, with new calls WBLQ. The new AM 1230 programming was at least temporarily parallel to LPFM station WBLQ-LP (96.7 Ashaway), which DiPaola operates for the nonprofit "Washington County Chamber of Commerce," though the FM station has applied for new calls WYCM-LP.
  • Another local news operation in northeast PENNSYLVANIA is shutting down. The region already lost what was left of local news at CBS affiliate WYOU-TV (Channel 22) in Scranton earlier this year, and now plucky low-power WYLN in Hazleton is shutting down its daily newscast. The network of LPTV stations based at WYLN-LP (Channel 35) serves a swath of rural Pennsylvania stretching south and west from Wilkes-Barre to Shamokin and into the Susquehanna Valley, with extensive cable coverage - but after December 31, its local news at 5 and 10 PM will be history, with much of the eight-person news department being furloughed. WYLN officials tell the Hazleton Standard-Speaker that the station will continue to produce other local programming, including a new local 5 PM show to debut sometime in early 2010.

December 5, 2005 -

  • If you read any of the daily industry trades, you know there's really been just one story that's had the attention of the radio business for the last few weeks: will ABC sell its radio division, to whom, and - perhaps most nerve-wrackingly - when? If we had a buck for every e-mail "BULLETIN" telling us a deal could be announced "as early as today," we could almost afford to buy ABC Radio ourselves at this point. And if we had a buck for every goofy bit of message-board speculation about what an Entercom purchase of ABC would mean for the talk lineup in Boston, well, we'd have already bought the network, installed ourselves as the fill-in for Paul Harvey (we can dream...) and replaced the talk lineup on WABC (770) with the return of Musicradio 77.
  • Mr. Harvey can breathe a sigh of relief - we're not even in the running to buy ABC, of course. But for fans of what may be the most popular top-40 station that ever was, that last bit of fantasy actually took a small step towards reality Saturday night. Yes, that was actual music being heard on WABC, reverb and all, as the station reacted to the summertime disappearance of oldies on New York radio by unveiling its own four-hour weekend oldies block, hosted every Saturday night from 6-10 by Mark Simone. In addition to already being in the building on Saturdays, hosting a morning talk show, Simone has excellent credentials where New York music radio is concerned, with a resume that includes a long stint at the old WPIX-FM.
  • And while we had our qualms about the first show (Simone brushed off the message-board suggestions for his first song, playing little snippets of "Imagine" - the last song WABC played in 1980, "Summer Wind" - the last song WCBS-FM played in 2005, and "Hit The Road Jack" - for obvious reasons - all mixed together, and the reverb was a far cry from the old version), Phil Boyce and Johnny Donovan and the rest of the crew at WABC made a lot of radio fans very happy this weekend, while sparking all kinds of talk about whether a similar weekend approach might work at other former top-40 AM giants that long ago flipped to talk.
  • Some sad news from CANADA, as the weekend brought word of the passing of one of that country's true broadcasting legends. When Allan Waters bought CHUM (1050) in 1954, it was just a little daytimer, but by the time of his retirement half a century later, he'd built first the station and then CHUM Limited into one of Canada's most important radio and television groups. Waters retired from the CHUM board of directors in October; he died Saturday morning (Dec. 3) in a Toronto hospital at age 84.

December 4, 2000 -

  • New York City's oldest FM station may soon be in new hands after 62 years of city schools supervision. WNYE-FM (91.5) traces its history back to 1938, when it was one of the first educational FM stations in the country, operating on the old 42-50 MHz band. Since then, it's offered the Big Apple a mixture of schools-produced programming, ethnic broadcasts, and NPR programs. Published reports over the past week suggest that era is about to come to an end. The city schools are apparently as eager to give up WNYE-FM (and its TV counterpart, WNYE-TV 25) as the city itself was a few years ago, when it sold WNYC-TV and spun WNYC radio off to a separate nonprofit entity. Ironically, it's that very entity that would take over WNYE under the plan now being considered.
  • Right now, WNYC operates two stations, the mostly classical WNYC-FM (93.9) and news-talk-variety WNYC (820 AM). What might WNYC do with a third station? Speculation so far has ranged from using 91.5 to extend the weak night signal of AM 820, to using the new station to bring back the adult standards format that's now extinct in New York City. What about the French programming in the morning, the Haitian shows at night that seem to be heard in every other Manhattan taxi, and the schools shows? We'll know more when and if schools chancellor Harold Levy unveils an official plan to hand WNYE-FM management over to WNYC.
  • As for WNYE-TV, which picked up some of the ethnic programming displaced by the demise of the old WNYC-TV in 1997 (that station, sold by the city for $207 million, is now Pax outlet WPXN-TV), there's been talk of handing its operations over to competing PBS outlet WNET (Channel 13), but those plans appear less certain at press time.
  • Up in the North Country, Tim Martz has applied to make some big changes at his stations, now that the FCC has approved a swap of his frequency allocations in Canton and Morristown. Here's how things would play out: WVLF Canton, now a class A station on 96.7, would boost power to 23.5kw from 338 meters (with a directional antenna) from its transmitter site on Waterman Hill south of Canton. WVLF would move to 102.9, yielding its 96.7 frequency to WNCQ Morristown. That station would also get to go up to a class C3, with 17.2 kW at 354 meters from a new transmitter site northwest of Gouverneur, close enough to Watertown to make the new signal a rimshot contender there. Martz would also raise the power on his WRCD (101.5 Canton), which would go up to a full 50 kW (albeit directional) from 453 meters, at a new site on Whites Hill southeast of Potsdam (near the WNPI-TV tower).
  • Radio People on the Move: After more than 50 years at Dundee's WFLR (1570/95.9), one of the station's founders is hanging up his headphones. Robert William None has done everything from sales to news at the little community station. Most recently, he's been heard Saturday mornings and on the "Poem of the Day." Across the Finger Lakes in Cortland, Tony DeFranco has been promoted from PD to operations manager at Citadel's WKRT (920) and WIII (99.9). Congratulations to WGY (810 Schenectady) morning host Don Weeks, who's marking 20 years at the talker this month. Up in Potsdam, the folks at WPDM (1470) and WSNN (99.3) are mourning a station veteran. Dave Cady came to WPDM from Watertown's WOTT (1410) in the late 1960s, and hosted the "Dave Cady Good Morning Show" until his retirement in 1998. Cady was 62 when he died November 28 at Canton-Potsdam Hospital.
  • Moving to the Southern Tier, there's a new station of sorts in Elmira. After being off the air for just short of the one-year deadline (NERW, 12/10/1999), WEHH in Elmira Heights-Horseheads is once again being heard by listeners in Chemung County. Instead of its old 1590 signal from Latta Brook Road, though, WEHH is now operating on 1600 kHz from the studios and transmitter site of co-owned WELM (1410 Elmira) down on Lake Avenue. WEHH retains its locally-automated adult standards, and we suspect the Sunday morning polkas are once again being heard on both WEHH and WELM.
  • Up in CANADA this week, we know more about the shakeout at Corus' Hamilton operations. Among the 21 staffers who lost their jobs last week were all the top air personalities at classic rocker CJXY (95.3): morning team Lori Love and Scott Thompson, midday guy Jeremy Smith, and afternoon jock Todd Lewis, as well as PD David Foreman. Also out: CHML (900) midday guy Rick Malo and CING (107.9, "Energy 108") night jock Mastermind. The Energy Radio operation will move from the side of Highway 401 in Burlington to the CHML/Y95 complex on Main Street in Hamilton, and we hear the plan is to combine Y95, Oshawa's "Magic" (CKGE 94.9), and Barrie's CHAY (93.1) into a new station that will surround Toronto with a simulcast on all three frequencies.
  • We haven't heard any more tests on 740, but we can tell you a little more about the new station that will soon launch there in Toronto. We're told the calls will be CFPT, "Prime Time Radio," and that the adult-standards station will use the CBC facility at Hornby, the same transmitter that operated as CBL until summer 1999. That should mean no trouble hearing the signal across southern Ontario and western New York once it does launch. (We also note that the folks at CHWO Oakville, the station that's transmuting into CFPT, have registered as a domain name, though nothing's active there yet.)

New England Radio Watch, December 8, 1995

  • NERW's 1995 Year in Review - read it in its entirety here!

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