In this week’s issue… “Now” it’s WNOW in New York – Binnie flips New Hampshire formats – WUMB gets its upgrade – Nexstar buys in Burlington – Jazz comes back to Pittsburgh? – HD local news arrives in Erie – 600 returns to Montreal
By SCOTT FYBUSH
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*It’s been just over a year since the public radio scene in western PENNSYLVANIA changed dramatically with Duquesne University’s sale of WDUQ (90.5 Pittsburgh) to a new group called Essential Public Radio. Renamed WESA, 90.5 shed most of the jazz programming that had long been a staple there – and most of the former WDUQ staff, too. Many of those staffers had been involved with a rival bid for the 90.5 license under the “Pittsburgh Public Media” banner, and after losing out on the broadcast license, they remained active with other ventures. Even without a station to call home, former DUQ staffers kept the jazz format going by way of an online stream (“Pittsburgh Jazz Channel“) while planning more new formats to offer under the “PubMusic” banner.
It turns out they were planning something else, too: not long after WDUQ became WESA, Pittsburgh Public Media began negotiating to find a new FM home. On Friday, PPM announced it’s entered an agreement to buy WVBC (88.1), the radio signal of Bethany College in Bethany, West Virginia, some 35 miles west of Pittsburgh. PPM openly acknowledges that the 1100-watt signal “is a station that needs signal improvements” before it can be easily heard in most of the Pittsburgh area, and NERW notes that will be a challenge, what with Carnegie Mellon’s WRCT (88.3) right in Pittsburgh and He’s Alive, Inc.s’ religious WRWJ (88.1 Murrysville) out to the southeast of town.
“We must start somewhere,” PPM says, and it’s now launching a fundraising campaign to bring in $150,000 for the purchase of WVBC by February 1, 2013. Once it’s on the air with its new 88.1 rimshot signal, PPM says it will be ready to go with a studio: it turns out WESA sold all of the old WDUQ studio gear to PPM when it built new South Side studios with quasi-sister station WYEP (91.3) late last year.
*Two hours up I-79, Erie finally became a high-definition local TV news market last Monday, when Lilly Broadcasting debuted a new set and graphics on NBC affiliate WICU (Channel 12) and its CBS sister, WSEE (Channel 35).
The move puts WICU/WSEE a step ahead of its local news competition, Nexstar’s WJET-TV (Channel 24)/WFXP (Channel 66), and it means every TV market in the Keystone State now has at least one station doing HD local news. (The other holdout had been Johnstown-Altoona, where NBC affiliate WJAC-TV went HD earlier this year.)
*Congratulations to Drew Pinkney, who’s moving on to a new job. We first knew Drew when he was an engineer here in Rochester at Entercom’s local cluster. He moved on from there to Bud Williamson’s Digital Radio Engineering, where he’s been part of the crack team of contract engineers traveling the region building and maintaining broadcast facilities. And now he’s moving on to Cumulus in York, where he replaces Sam Michaels as chief engineer of WSBA (910), WGLD (1440 Manchester Township), WSOX (96.1 Red Lion) and WARM-FM (103.3), following Sam’s big move up to Cumulus’ Dallas/Fort Worth stations.
More Radio People on the Move: Derrick Corbett, aka “DC,” is the new PD of Clear Channel’s urban trio in Philadelphia, WUSL (98.9), WDAS-FM (105.3) and WDAS (1480). Corbett comes to Philadelphia from New Orleans, where he’s been PD of the Clear Channel urban trio there, WQUE/WYLD-FM/WYLD. In Pittsburgh, Ryan Maguire is the new PD at CBS Radio’s KDKA-FM (93.7 the Fan), arriving later this month from Kansas City’s KCSP (610). And in the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton market, Dale Mikolaczyk is out at Entercom, where he’d been doing traffic reporting (as “Rusty Fender”) for two decades and hosting a weekend oldies show on the WILK news-talk stations.
*When Infinity Broadcasting flipped NEW YORK‘s WKTU (92.3) to “K-Rock” back in 1985, could anyone have imagined that the WXRK calls would end up becoming among the city’s most enduring? Over 27 years, 92.3 saw the rise and eventual departure of Howard Stern, the ill-fated 2006 flip to talk as “Free FM” that briefly turned the station into WFNY-FM and the return of “K-Rock” and the WXRK calls in 2007. Even the flip to top-40 as “Now” in 2009 didn’t displace the WXRK callsign – at least, not right away. Why did it take until November 8, 2012 for CBS to finally change the callsign on 92.3 for good? We don’t know – but since the station is now WNOW-FM (a callsign that had been in North Carolina on what’s now WOSG 105.3 Gaffney/Charlotte and before that on what’s now WQXA-FM 105.7 in York, PA), it’s a good bet the “Now” format is sticking around for a while.
And unlike 2006, when CBS parked the WXRK callsign in Cleveland (or 2007, when CBS parked the even more legendary “WNEW” in Florida), the WXRK calls are free for the taking now by anyone who might want them (or at least they were free as of Friday night.)
*There’s a little bit of good news on the New York AM dial: the last of the big NEW JERSEY-based AM signals silenced by Sandy’s high waters have returned to the air. Nautel provided emergency shipments of 1000-watt AM transmitters last week to allow WMCA (570) and WLIB (1190) to put low-power signals back on while they work to rebuild transmission systems heavily damaged by the flooding.
We’re also learning more about the damage to another nearby station in Sandy’s path. WMCA’s sister station, WNYM (970 Hackensack), has asked the FCC for special temporary authority to operate fulltime with its 5 kW nighttime signal while it tries to repair storm damage to its 50 kW daytime transmitter.
Out on Long Island, WGBB (1240 Babylon) still remains silent; its transmitter building was flooded and its transmission equipment was reportedly damaged beyond repair.
*While we wait to find out what Cumulus has in mind for its new purchase, WFME (94.7 Newark), we know one thing for certain: the Cumulus New York cluster will have a new leader once it adds that signal. Steve Borneman had been president/GM of WABC since 2006 and of sister station WPLJ since 2009, and he’d been with WPLJ in sales management since 1999. He’s now headed downtown for an as-yet-unannounced management role with Clear Channel, and no replacement has been named yet at Two Penn Plaza.
*Christmas tunes are spreading: Buffalo’s WJYE (96.1) and WTSS (102.5) both made the flip on Friday, and CNYRadio.com reports Utica’s WUMX (102.5) became “ChrisMix 102.5” on November 1.
A big promotion for a “Big” guy: Jay Fink, better known to his friends as “Biggie,” has been a part of Dennis Jackson’s WRIP (97.9 Windham) up in the Catskills since the station launched back in 1999. He joined the station full-time in 2002, and became its general manager and morning man in 2010 when Guy Patrick Garraghan died. Now Jay’s been upped to president of the station, and we send our “big” congratulations his way!
*It’s been a while since we’ve had LPTV news to tell you about here in the Rochester area, but this week there’s a whole bunch. Start with WGCE-CA (Channel 6), the tiny little station just west of Rochester in Greece that’s long been owned by Edu-Cable (which also used to provide “Cable 12 West” to Greece and surrounding communities.) Now Edu-Cable’s Brian Caterino is selling the 29-watt signal to another local low-power broadcaster. The $46,000 sale to Corning-based Milachi Media will put the station in the hands of William and Paige Christian, who between them own Rochester MyNetwork affiliate WBGT-CA (Channel 40) and the Vision Communications/Sound Communications radio/TV cluster in the Southern Tier. WGCE apparently won’t be staying on channel 6 much longer, either; the sale contract specifies that the channel 6 transmitter be returned to Caterino once the station moves to its new UHF home on channel 25.
As for WBGT, it’s been a long while since we’ve seen any over-the-air signal from “My18,” which gets its viewership and its branding from its position on Time Warner Cable. But that changed last week when WBGT’s digital signal finally made it to the air. It’s on RF channel 46, and at least at the moment is carrying just one standard-definition stream and no PSIP data, so it’s appearing as “46” instead of “40” on the TVs here at NERW Central.
But wait, there’s more – across town, WAWW-LP, which we haven’t seen on analog 38 for many, many months, has filed for a license to cover on its displacement application to move to analog 20. (We’re not seeing anything on analog 20 here, either, almost within sight of the Pinnacle Hill towers, and we can’t even recall what WAWW last programmed when it was on the air.)
Back to the Christians for a moment: Paige Christian’s Sound Communications is applying to boost the signal of its WKPQ (105.3 Hornell) with two new boosters. WKPQ’s a fringe signal right now in the two biggest cities in its Arbitron market, Corning and Elmira, but that will change if the on-channel boosters are granted. WKPQ-1 would run 440 watts, vertical-only, from Denmark Hill just east of Corning, while WKPQ-2 would run 32 watts, vertical-only, from Mount Zion just south of downtown Elmira.
*Binghamton’s WSKG Public Telecommunications is adding another FM signal to its extensive Southern Tier coverage. The construction permit for WWSA (88.1 Greene) expires December 30, and the permittee, the St. Anthony of Padua Roman Catholic parish, apparently can’t get the 11.5 kW/403′ DA (vertical-only) signal on the air by then. So the parish is selling WWSA to WSKG for $60,000, and the WSKG engineers will have to work quickly to get the station built from its CP site in Oxford, Chenango County. Once it’s on the air, the new signal will serve Norwich and vicinity, where the only strong public radio signal right now is a translator of Oswego’s WRVO (89.9).
*A few bits of translator news: in Lockport, W214BB (90.7) was displaced by new community signal WLNF (90.5 Rapids), and now the translator of Delaware-based religious WXHL has relocated to 89.1. Up north in Ogdensburg, the translator of Syracuse religious broadcaster WMHR (102.9) is applying to change channels. What’s now W261BN (100.1) wants to move to 100.5 – and, it tells the FCC, to relocate from a rented tower space to a “rent-free pole,” where it would run 250 watts.
*A sad end to a downstate broadcast career: The last time we wrote about John Katonah in this space was back in 2010, when the veteran broadcaster was in legal trouble after being charged with DWI, criminal trespassing and violating a restraining order. Katonah’s WNYX (88.1 Montgomery) and its two translators fell silent not long afterward, and last week Katonah’s wife Mary filed to have the licenses transferred to her, telling the FCC that John Katonah died on April 25, 2012. Katonah was 50 years old.
*Fans of folk and AAA music in eastern MASSACHUSETTS are about to get a better signal from WUMB-FM (91.9 Boston). Squeezed into an already packed FM dial fairly late in the game (1982), WUMB has been operating from atop the old stone water tower in Quincy, running 660 watts/206′, but it’s about to lose that site when the historic tower gets renovated sometime soon. The engineering wizardry of Dave Doherty identified a new site on the Industrial Communications tower near the Quincy/Milton line, and as of last week the FCC has granted WUMB a CP to move to that site with 160 watts/620′.
To make WUMB-FM’s move possible, the FCC had to be persuaded to grant waivers to two co-owned, co-channel simulcast stations to power down slightly. WBPR-FM (91.9 Worcester) will drop from 370 to 270 watts and WFPB-FM (91.9 Falmouth) will drop from 6 kW to 5.2 kW – and in so doing, they’ll slightly reduce the incoming interference to WUMB-FM, which means the signal from the new higher antenna should get out even a little better to greater Boston, once the move is complete.
*Our Indiana radio friends are in mourning this week after the sudden death on Friday of “Big John” Gillis, best known as the longtime helicopter traffic reporter on WIBC in Indianapolis. But in the days when WIBC was owned by Fairbanks Communications, Gillis spent some time in the Boston market, too, working in the early 1970s as the program director of Fairbanks’ WVBF (105.7 Framingham). And when Fairbanks bought Philadelphia’s WIBG (990) in 1976, Gillis headed down there, becoming production director of the station under new calls WZZD. When Fairbanks sold WZZD three years later, Gillis returned to Indianapolis, where he quickly became exactly what he called himself on his LinkedIn profile: a “Media Icon.” Gillis was 64 years old.
*In NEW HAMPSHIRE, Bill Binnie is already starting to shuffle formats at the stations he’s acquiring from Nassau Broadcasting. Nassau had parked WNNH (99.1 Henniker) in a divestiture trust but had never completed the sale of the station, and now that it’s in Binnie’s hands and out of the trust, the Concord-market signal has dropped its “temporary” (but long-running) simulcast of Nassau’s MAINE “W-Bach” classical network and flipped to classic hits as “Frank FM.” This is WNNH’s second time as “Frank,” following a 2007-2009 simulcast with WLKZ (104.9 Wolfeboro) up in the Lakes Region, which isn’t part of the new Binnie group.
Up north, Ron Frizzell’s Mount Washington Radio and Gramophone has filed for a license to cover for a new AM signal in Conway. The new 620-watter on 1340 just got the callsign WPQR, and it’s a sister station to WBNC (1050), WMWV (93.5) and WVMJ (104.5) in Conway, and it shares WBNC’s tower just east of downtown Conway.
*Two VERMONT stations are getting new owners as the fast-growing Nexstar group expands yet again. Nexstar already has a presence in every upstate New York market except Buffalo, and now it’s paying Smith Media $17.1 million for a foothold in the adjoining Plattsburgh-Burlington market. Nexstar will buy Fox affiliate WFFF-TV (Channel 44) from Smith, while Nexstar affiliate Mission Broadcasting will pick up ABC affiliate WVNY (Channel 22) from Lambert Broadcasting of Burlington. Just as it did under Lambert, WVNY under Mission will continue to be operated under a local services agreement by WFFF.
A bit more TV news from the market: The FCC has downgraded Burlington’s WGMU-CA (Channel 39) and its sister station W19BR Monkton after getting no response when it asked owner Convergence Entertainment & Communications to show why the low-power stations should retain “class A” status. WGMU (which is a repeater of WNMN-TV 40 in Saranac Lake, N.Y.) had failed to file the mandatory childrens’ programming reports with the FCC in 2009 and 2010.
*While the AM band in CANADA continues to empty out in most areas, it’s still roaring back in Montreal. Last week, the CRTC approved the application from Tietolman-Tétrault-Pancholy Media (TTP) for a new English-language news-talk station at 600 on the dial. That’s the former home of the city’s pioneering station CFCF, which later became CIQC before moving to 940 as CINW and then going silent.
The new TTP entry will take over right where CIQC left off back in 2002, operating with a similar 10 kW day/5 kW night signal from CIQC’s former transmitter site in Kahnawahke, south of Montreal. It will share that site with TTP’s new French-language news-talk entry at 940 on the dial, and Montreal media guru Steve Faguy says both stations will be on the air sometime in the spring of 2013.
TTP’s new entries will bring commercial competition to two of Montreal’s biggest existing stations: Astral Media’s CJAD (800) has been the only commercial English news-talk station in town since Corus shut down CINW a few years back, and Cogeco’s CHMP (98.5) shot to the top of the Montreal French-language ratings with its talk format. Can TTP’s local focus and the experience of its personnel (principal Paul Tietolman is the son of CKVL founder Jack Tietolman, and programmers for the new signals will include Steve Kowch, who used to program CJAD) overcome the big chains’ deep pockets? We’ll be listening.
*Local radio is about to grow in Kitchener/Waterloo, Ontario, too. In January, the CRTC will hear an application from the CBC to convert CBLA-FM-2 (89.1 Paris) from a full-time rebroadcaster of CBLA-FM (99.1 Toronto) to a separate local license. The CBC says the new local Radio One outlet will include a minimum of 12.5 hours a week of local content from a new local studio in the region.
In suburban Toronto, Subanasiri Vaithilingam has applied to move CJVF Scarborough from 105.9 to 102.7, boosting power from 45 watts/63 m to 1200 watts (476 watts average DA)/77 m. The move would take the Sri Lankan station out of the way of the 105.9 signal recently granted in nearby Markham.
*Radio People on the Move: Derek “Rock” Botten is the new morning co-host at London’s CKLO (98.1 Free FM), where he started co-hosting “The Big Show” last week with Blair Henatyzen and Lisa Brandt. In Peterborough, Pete Dalliday is the new morning co-host at CKRU (100.5 Kruz-FM) as of this morning, replacing Mike Melnik, who signed off on Friday. Dalliday had been doing afternoons at sister station CKWF (101.5 the Wolf), as well as announcing Peterborough Petes minor-league hockey.
*Good news, everybody! A new shipment of the 2013 Tower Site Calendar is back from the printer, and on its way out to YOU!
This is the 12th edition of our annual calendar, which features photos of broadcast towers taken by Scott Fybush on his travels.
The 12-month wall calendar boasts a full-color photo each month of a well-known broadcast transmitter site.
This year’s edition includes sites in Florida, Wisconsin, Kentucky, California, Iowa, Idaho, Las Vegas, Colorado, Boston, Cleveland, Albuquerque, upstate New York and western Massachusetts. We’ve also redesigned the calendar to make it more colorful (don’t worry; the pictures are still pristine) and make the spiral binding our standard binding — your calendar will hang even better on your wall now! And of course, we still have the convenient hole for hanging.
Order 20 or more for a 10% discount! And while you’re at the Fybush.com store, check out the new National Radio Club AM Log and the final stash of FM Atlas editions.
For more information and to order yours, click here!