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February 28, 2011

PA's Bob O'Brien Dies in Car Crash

Don't wait until NERW Monday for breaking news - follow us on Twitter and Facebook for updates as they happen!

It's an abbreviated NERW this week, and we hope you'll forgive us - your editor is halfway through a huge sweep across northern and central Florida to collect images and stories and airchecks that you'll see on Tower Site of the Week and in the Tower Site Calendar and on in the months to come. Fortunately, it was also a fairly quiet week back here are the headlines:

*Some sad news out of central PENNSYLVANIA begins our abbreviated report this week: Bob O'Brien worked in radio in the 1970s in New York and New Jersey and then landed at WFEC (1400 Harrisburg) during the end of that station's long run with top-40 - but he really made a name for himself in the years that followed, both as a popular DJ at events and as a friend to many other Pennsylvania jocks and programmers.

Last Thursday (Feb. 24), O'Brien was driving on I-81 when another driver crossed the median and slammed into his car, killing him. O'Brien was just 60.

*In Erie, Bill Shannon is selling translator W285AI (104.9) to Citadel, which had already announced plans to simulcast its sports station, WRIE (1260), on the FM signal. Sale price for the translator is $62.500.

*In NEW YORK's Hudson Valley, Sunrise Broadcasting's new WGNY-FM (98.9 Rosendale) is officially on the air now, and as promised on the station's website, it's picking up the same oldies feed (largely via satellite) that's been heard on the existing WGNY (1220 Newburgh) and WDLC (1490 Port Jervis), not to mention the HD2 channel of WJGK (103.1 Newburgh), which makes for quite a mouthful at legal ID time.

Word is that WGNY-FM's own HD2 channel, which will feature a rhythmic format, isn't yet on the air...but in the meantime, we can at least offer you a first glimpse at the WGNY-FM antenna on a ridge north of Poughkeepsie.

Meanwhile at the Cumulus cluster, there appear to be changes coming at WCZX (97.7 Hyde Park): veteran morning man Bob Miller and middayer Suzy Garcia are gone and the website of the AC station has been scrubbed, replaced with an announcement that "The New Mix is coming" on Thursday. Miller had been with the station since 1994.

And up in the northern reaches of the valley, community station WGXC (90.7 Acra) made its on-air debut at 2:00 Saturday afternoon, serving Greene and Columbia counties and vicinity.

*In New York City, there's a sudden staffing change at CBS Radio's "Now" (WXRK 92.3) - afternoon jock Tic Tak announced Friday that it was his last day there. Now jock Lil Cee takes over that shift.

*It's a little too early for our full-fledged Baseball on the Radio (even if your editor's attending spring training today in Fort Myers), but there's some baseball news out of Syracuse: the AAA Chiefs are moving back to Citadel's WSKO (1260) now that their former on-air home, Clear Channel's WHEN (620), has dropped sports for urban as "Power."

Out on Long Island, the independent Long Island Ducks have signed a deal to put some of their games on JVC's new country outlet, WJVC (96.1 Center Moriches) later this summer.

(Meanwhile down in NEW JERSEY, the AA Trenton Thunder shift from WRRC 107.7 to the more powerful WTSR 91.3 at Trenton State; some games will also be simulcast on WBCB 1490 just across the Delaware River.)

It didn't take too long for Brian DeMay to find a new job after losing his PD/on-air gig at Buffalo's WTSS (Star 102.5) in a recent round of budget cuts; he's now headed to Delaware as the new PD at Beasley's WJBR (99.5 Wilmington).

And in the Southern Tier, WMTQ (88.1 Elmira) is reportedly on the air now, extending the reach for the Catholic programming from the Buffalo-based Holy Family Communications.


It's 2011 now - and that 2010 calendar on your wall won't do you much good, will it?

But lucky for you, we're here to help: Tower Site Calendar 2011 is now available, featuring more than a dozen great images of radio and TV broadcast facilities all over the country (and even beyond - this year's edition takes us to Mexico!)

Thrill to a night shot of KFI's new tower! Check out the WAEB Allentown array just after it lost a tower - or enjoy the history at venerable sites like those of KID in Idaho Falls, WCAP in Lowell, KTKT in Tucson and Rochester's Pinnacle Hill.

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 signed calendars, back isues and much more in the store!

Orders of 20 or more calendars get a discount. We'll even add a bow or a gift card upon request.

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*It's official now: at MASSACHUSETTS sports station WEEI (850 Boston), ball player Lou Merloni and weekender Mike Mutnansky will take over middays starting next Monday (March 7) as "Mut and Merloni," replacing the "Dale and Holley" show as Dale Arnold is shunted to fill-in duty and Michael Holley moves over to become Glenn Ordway's co-host on "The Big Show" in afternoon drive.

Don Imus has added a new Bay State affiliate: he's being heard on WPKZ (1280 Fitchburg, and its FM translator on 105.3), albeit with only one hour of live clearance early in the morning and the rest of the show on delay after WPKZ's own local morning show. (We heard Imus this morning, via WSRQ here in Sarasota, Florida, poking fun at WPKZ's unwieldy slogan, "The Heart of New England's Pulse.")

Out on Martha's Vineyard, unbuilt WMEX (88.1 Edgartown) is changing hands to extend its construction permit, which was due to expire in May. The CP goes from Dennis Jackson's Foothills Public Radio to "Vineyard Public Radio," operated by Dennis' kids Maggie and Brian, for no financial consideration.

*Another rumored move has become official: in RHODE ISLAND, WPRO (630 Providence)/WEAN (99.7 Wakefield-Peace Dale) has named its new morning team. The Citadel station is pairing Tara Granahan, who'd been executive producer of the morning show when John DePetro was hosting it, and former WLNE (Channel 6) weekend anchor Andrew Gobeil. The reworked show debuts next Monday.

*How committed is CBS to its new joint (and very, very generic) marketwide websites for its TV and news/talk radio stations? So much so that it just launched, a new portal for all of its CONNECTICUT stations that meet that description...all one of them, WTIC (1080).


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*Just a couple of bits of news from CANADA: in Cobourg, Ontario, United Christian Broadcasters has been granted a license for a new signal. The 250-watt/107' signal on 90.7 will be a sister to CKJJ (102.3 Belleville), which is also heard on relay transmitters in Bancroft, Kingston and Brockville.

And in the Maritimes, Instant Information Services is applying to move tourist-information station CIRM (90.1 Moncton) to 96.3, boosting its power from 22 watts to 500 watts/208' and adding service to more than 100,000 additional listeners.

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.

One Year Ago: March 1, 2010 -

  • Clear Channel's launch of "Rush Radio 1200" in Boston is coming faster than expected. As of next Monday, Limbaugh is gone from longtime affiliate WRKO (680 Boston), replaced by a local show hosted by political consultant Charley Manning - and over at, there's now a website up, complete with a "Rush Radio 1200 WXKS" logo and Limbaugh himself shown as "on air."
  • Meanwhile at WBZ, they're mourning Don Kent, the veteran weatherman who died Monday night at his New Hampshire home. Kent came to WBZ-TV in 1950, and remained an icon of New England TV weather for three decades. He was 92.
  • That mythical "wheel of formats" was spinning fast in NEW YORK's capital city last week, at least where Albany Broadcasting's cluster was concerned. One format change was expected: on Wednesday, WKLI (100.9 Albany) broke out of the simulcast with WROW (590 Albany), which has inherited WKLI's former "Magic" standards/soft AC format, becoming "The Bridge" with an adult hits format. There's no live talent on "The Bridge" just yet, but Albany Broadcasting says the plan is to add an airstaff down the road.
  • The surprise came on Friday, when sister station WZMR (104.9 Altamont) ditched its "Edge" modern rock format to go country as "The Cat." This is the second time Albany's had country on 104.9; from January 2005 until February 2006, WZMR simulcasted country "Froggy" WFFG from up in the Glens Falls market before launching "The Edge." It's not hard to surmise what Albany Broadcasting has in mind here: the cash cow in their cluster is AC powerhouse WYJB (95.5 Albany), which routinely battles with Regent's country behemoth WGNA-FM (107.7 Albany) for the top of the ratings pile.
  • Will bumping the older-skewing "Magic" format to AM pull some of its FM audience over to B95 - and might "The Cat" on 104.9 then shave just a bit of the country audience off WGNA? It's possible...but we've seen this strategy attempted without much success in other markets in the past, too. As for the talk format that used to be on WROW, one of its personalities has landed across town: Premiere's Glenn Beck show starts today on Clear Channel's WGY (810 Schenectady), where it displaces local talker Al Roney from the 9 AM-noon timeslot.
  • The weather was the big story over the weekend in NEW HAMPSHIRE, especially at Saga's cluster in Manchester, where high winds literally ripped the roof off the Commercial Street studios of WZID (95.7), WMLL (96.5) and WFEA (1370) early Friday morning. With several inches of water in every studio, WZID reportedly relocated to a conference room down the street at the WMUR-TV studios, staying on the air helping to provide emergency information as some 300,000 New Englanders suffered without power or heat. The power outages knocked some other stations off the air around the Granite State, too, at least temporarily; thankfully, there's been no word of any other facility damage so far in New Hampshire.
  • In PENNSYLVANIA, there are new calls coming to Bold Gold's soon-to-launch talker in the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton market: WLNP (94.3 Carbondale) is becoming WTRW.
  • One of CANADA's most popular morning radio hosts says farewell today. Andy Barrie's final "Metro Morning" will air from 5:30 until 8:30 on CBLA (99.1 Toronto), followed by a finale in front of a live audience in the CBC Broadcast Centre, in which new "Metro Morning" host Matt Galloway will interview Barrie as the morning baton is handed over.

Five Years Ago: February 27, 2006 -

  • It's been a turbulent time for sports radio in eastern MASSACHUSETTS - and it's not getting any quieter any time soon. The last few months have brought the launch of ESPN Radio on WAMG (890 Dedham)/WLLH (1400 Lowell and Lawrence); staff changes, new transmitters and the impending end of the Red Sox contract at WEEI (850 Boston); the return of Eddie Andelman at WTKK (96.9 Boston) - and now the third all-sports player, WWZN (1510 Boston), is officially up for sale, along with the rest of its parent company, The Sporting News. The company's billionaire owner, Paul Allen, confirmed last week that he's hired an investment firm to review several offers that he's received to sell the company, which includes the flagship magazine as well as Sporting News Radio (formerly One-on-One Sports) and its three stations, WWZN, WSNR (620 Jersey City NJ-New York City) and KMPC (1540 Los Angeles). WSNR dropped most Sporting News Radio programming several years ago and now runs leased-time ethnic programming, and WWZN let most of its local staff (including Andelman) go last year. (It also lost its flagship sports franchise, the Celtics, to WEEI's sister station WRKO.)
  • Just as The Sporting News is the third-largest major sports magazine (after Sports Illustrated and ESPN: The Magazine), so SNR is a distant third (at least in affiliate count and ratings) behind ESPN Radio and Fox Sports Radio. Would a new owner keep the radio network and the stations as a loss-leader brand extension to the magazine, as Allen has done? Or could the radio stations be headed to separate ownership and away from sports formats? As always, stay tuned...
  • Sports fans everywhere mourned the loss of Curt Gowdy last week. As we reported in an update to last week's NERW, Gowdy died last Monday morning (Feb. 20) in Florida, at age 86.
  • Gowdy came to Boston in 1951 after several years calling games in New York, and for the next fifteen seasons he was a fixture in the Red Sox booth. And while he went on to even greater heights as a network broadcaster (calling the first Super Bowl and five more thereafter, as well as the World Series and almost every other major sporting event), he remained fondly remembered by Sox fans. Last August, the Sox honored him with a special day at Fenway Park, Gowdy's last Boston appearance. And on Saturday, his funeral procession circled Fenway, in a final gesture of respect to the man whose low-key style defined Red Sox radio for decades to follow.
  • Gowdy was, of course, also a broadcast owner in the region. In 1963, he bought WCCM (800) and WCCM-FM (93.7) in Lawrence, later renaming the FM after himself - WCGY. In 1969, Gowdy added WBBX (1380) in Portsmouth, NEW HAMPSHIRE to his holdings, which also included KOWB (1290) and KCGY (95.1) in Laramie, Wyoming. Gowdy sold WBBX in the eighties, followed in 1994 by WCCM/WCGY and in 2002 by the Wyoming stations.
  • Does a nation still coming to terms with the impending loss of UPN and The WB really need another new TV network? Whether or not it does, it's getting one - at least in NEW YORK and nine other markets where Fox Television Stations needs something to fill the prime-time slots about to be left empty by the demise of UPN.
  • Fox will replace UPN on WWOR (Channel 9) with something called "My Network TV," a mini-network that will launch with two English-language "telenovelas," an attempt to translate the success of that format in the Spanish TV world, where nightly hour-long dramas that run for several months at a stretch are a programming staple.
  • "My Network TV" will also be offered to non-Fox stations in other markets, on terms that may be more favorable to stations than the initial contracts being offered by the other new network, The CW. That should make for an interesting horse race over the next few months in markets such as Buffalo and Syracuse, where former WB and UPN affiliates are all trying to figure out who'll land where this fall. In other markets where CW affiliations have already been announced, "My" will become an obvious choice for the station left out - Sinclair's WCWB Pittsburgh, LIN's WCTX New Haven/Hartford, and Tribune's WPHL Philadelphia. And then there's the Boston market, where Shooting Star's indie WZMY in Derry, New Hampshire has itself been branding as "My TV" since last September. It's reportedly considering legal action against Fox over the name - though since the corporate rivalry between Fox and CBS will likely prevent former UPN affiliate WSBK in Boston from becoming a "My" affiliate, it's not at all out of the question that the dispute could yet be resolved with the two "My" contenders hooking up.
  • And there's a new station on the air in CANADA's capital city. Evanov's CJWL (98.5 Ottawa) signed on last Monday (Feb. 20) at 10 AM. It's running a soft AC/standards format as "Jewel 98.5," with a 700-watt signal that doesn't reach much beyond the city itself. The station's studios are located at 124 York Street in Ottawa's Byward Market area, just a couple of blocks away from CHUM's MediaMarketMall and right across from the former studios of CHEZ (106.1).

10 Years Ago: February 26, 2001 -

  • It's gone from AC to smooth jazz to modern AC to rhythmic oldies -- and now Buffalo's WBUF (92.9) has come full circle to the rock format they last had more than twenty years ago. The Infinity-owned station abruptly killed off its "Dancin' Oldies" format and "B92.9" nickname on Thursday, slipping into a day of stunting with Queen's "We Will Rock You" and taunts against Citadel's "97 Rock" (WGRF 96.9) before relaunching Friday (2/23) at noon with Genesis' "Abacab" (not, as the Buffalo News had it, "Turn It On Again"!) The new "Rock 92" brings Howard Stern back to the Buffalo airwaves half a decade after his less-than-successful stint on WWKB (1520), filling the rest of the day with a mix of rock tunes that seems, thus far, to lean rather heavily towards the 80s. (Buffalo listeners have had access to Stern for the last year and a half through Toronto's CILQ, Q107, for whatever that's worth...)
  • Next stop in NEW YORK? Binghamton, where the FCC approved Clear Channel's purchase of WINR (680) from dentist Paul Titus this week, over the strenuous objections of commissioner Gloria Tristani. By adding WINR to its existing cluster (sports WENE 1430 Endicott, rock WKGB 92.5 Susquehanna PA, AC WMXW 103.3 Vestal, CHR WMRV 105.7 Endicott and country WBBI 107.5 Endwell), Clear Channel brings the combined Binghamton market share of its stations and those of rival Citadel to a whopping 91.2 percent, reducing Binghamton to a duopoly in Tristani's view. By not considering whether or not the market can support three competitors and whether there were other potential buyers for WINR, Tristani writes, "we may never know if the cementing of a duopoly in Binghamton was inevitable, or simply another case of regulatory malfeasance by the FCC. While WINR today is far from a major player in the market (it's been decades since the station's days as an important top-40 outlet), NERW thinks it will be interesting to see how Clear Channel rebuilds the station to take on Citadel's dominance of the AM dial in Binghamton. (Those paying close attention to Binghamton in the last year or two will recall that it was originally Citadel that planned to acquire WINR, moving its news-talk WNBF from 1290 down to the superior 680 signal, then moving standards WKOP from 1360 to 1290 and leaving Titus with 1360, the weakest AM in town. Now WNBF faces the likelihood of a competing news-talker on 680, drawing resources from Clear Channel's Premiere talk lineup and its upstate network of radio newsrooms. This should be interesting!)
  • NEW HAMPSHIRE is next on NERW's agenda, and have we ever been hearing a lot about that religious pirate on 88.7 somewhere around Londonderry! It's been on the air just about every night, we're told, with nary an ID to be heard. The end could be in sight, though: one NERW reader checked in to report that the pirate's second harmonic, at 177.4 MHz, was wreaking havoc with his reception of WHDH-TV, whose channel 7 occupies 174-180 MHz. WHDH has been alerted to the problem, and that's the sort of complaint that tends to send the Enforcement Bureau running.
  • The big news in MAINE is a new simulcast in the Bangor area. WNSX (97.7 Winter Harbor) dropped its relay of former sister station WMDI (107.7 Bar Harbor) this week to join its new Clear Channel sister station in Searsport with classic rock as "The Fox at 97.7 and 101.7." The Searsport station gets new calls, too, changing from WBYA to WFCX.
  • A few tidbits from across PENNSYLVANIA: Pittsburgh's own Clarke Ingram checked in with a format shift at the station he programs in the Steel City. Don't call "The Beat" (WJJJ 104.7) "Jammin' Oldies" anymore; the new phrase is "Jammin' Hits," with an added emphasis on more recent rhythmic tunes.

15 Years Ago: New England Radio Watch, March 3, 1996

  • Veteran WBZ newsman Darrell Gould died of colon cancer on Friday, March 1. Darrell was 57, and had been ill for quite a while with various ailments. I worked with Darrell at the end of his WBZ career, and I've rarely met anyone friendlier or more fun to work with. Darrell was always ready with an impromptu song or a bad pun, and he and another 'BZ reporter were famous around the building for their doo-wop duets. Professionally, Darrell was BZ's statehouse reporter for much of the '70s and '80s, and then the evening anchor until his retirement last year. Before coming to WBZ in 1966, Darrell had worked at WHYN in Springfield, WICE in Providence, WPOP in Hartford, and WHOU in Houlton, Maine, to name a few. Funeral services will be held Tuesday morning. Darrell leaves his wife and three daughters...and a saddened group of friends and colleagues.
  • WCMX(AM) 1000 in Leominster MA is back on the air after being dark for more than three years. The 1kw daytimer is now owned by a local church and programming religion. The old WCMX tower and ground systems, near the intersection of Mass. Route 2 and I-190, were torn out and replaced by a new tower and ground system at the same location last summer. I'm not sure where the new WCMX studios are. The signal is adequate but far from strong at my Waltham MA listening post, some 25 miles southeast of Leominster. WCMX is now the third religious outlet in the Leominster-Fitchburg market, along with WFGL 960 Fitchburg and the "Greenville NH" 94.3 translator for WGLV Hartford VT. The only other stations in the market are WEIM 1280 Fitchburg, with a local AC/news format; WXLO 104.5 Fitchburg, which functions as a Worcester station (the much larger city of Worcester is about 20 miles south of Fitchburg); and college station WXPL 91.3, with a very erratic broadcast schedule.
  • Also west of Boston, there's word that currently-dark WBIV 1060 Natick MA has found a new transmitter site. WBIV was ousted from its old site in Ashland MA when WBPS (then WBMA) took over the equipment last year. Now the station wants to return as a 50kw daytimer from a site on US20 on the Wayland/Sudbury town line, near the towns' waste-transfer station. WBIV's new owner is one Alexander Langer of Florida; I'd be interested to know if anyone has ever heard of him. (We soon would! - Ed.)

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