In this week’s issue: Merlin buys WKDN – Adams leaves KDKA – Signal problems for WOLF-TV – WABC makes schedule changes – New look for WBZ-TV – Vermont’s WCVT moves up – WPHX sold – CJTS signs off
(Before we get started this week, a programming note: we’re a little behind on fulfilling Tower Site Calendar orders and subscriptions, due to the hospitalization of our business manager, aka Mrs. NERW, Lisa Fybush. She’s back home now and will be getting caught up this week. And a reminder: if you’re sending in subscription orders by mail, please include your e-mail address and desired user name so Lisa doesn’t have to take time out of her recovery to track you down to set up your account! Thanks, and on with the week’s news…)
MONDAY AFTERNOON UPDATE: In a surprise move, CBS is creating the second English-language commercial TV duopoly in the New York City market. It’s acquiring low-profile Long Island-based independent station WLNY-TV (Channel 55) for an as-yet-undisclosed price. WLNY has a prominent cable presence in most of the market (generally on cable channel 10), and it will provide an additional outlet alongside CBS O&O WCBS-TV (Channel 2). Much more in next week’s NERW…
*There’s something about Randy Michaels’ Merlin Media venture that seems to dominate media discussion in every market it enters, and it was no different this week in PENNSYLVANIA, where Merlin entered the Philadelphia market with the (reportedly $22.5 million) purchase of WKDN (106.9), the second of two Family Stations properties put up for sale earlier this year after Family founder Harold Camping’s failed end-of-the-world prediction.
CBS Radio won the bidding for the first of those Family signals, WFSI (107.9 Annapolis MD), which it will use as part of a plan to challenge established Washington all-news behemoth WTOP – but in Philadelphia, it’s CBS Radio’s well-established KYW (1060) that will be at the receiving end of a challenge from Merlin.
In this case, unlike Washington, it’s the challenger that will enjoy a signal advantage. One reason the Philadelphia signal cost so much more than the Washington one (WFSI sold for just $8.5 million) is that it has much more potential as a full-market facility. Right now, WKDN operates as a 38 kW/551′ class B facility from the towers of former sister station WTMR (800) in its city of license, Camden, NEW JERSEY – but it’s widely expected that one of Merlin’s first tasks after taking over 106.9 will be to improve the signal, which is hampered by aging equipment and a less-than-optimum transmitter site. There’s room to relocate 106.9, though, and while it will never quite be the equal of the full non-directional class B signals from the Roxborough tower farm, it will reach areas that currently struggle to hear KYW, especially up toward Bucks County where KYW has a directional null protecting adjacent-channel WEPN (1050 New York).
There’s speculation already floating around about whether CBS might respond, as it did in Chicago, by putting KYW on an FM signal – but unlike Chicago, where CBS had a struggling FM signal to sacrifice, there are only two FMs in the CBS arsenal in Philadelphia. WIP-FM (94.1) just flipped to an AM sports simulcast, and WOGL (98.1) has been consistently successful as an oldies/classic hits station. (Consider, though, that the CBS Radio website currently lists WOGL’s format only as “Holiday Music,” the only CBS station so listed even though several others, such as Boston’s WODS, are also in holiday-music mode.)
As for Merlin, it’s already started staffing up the future “FM News 106.9”: the first announced hire for the station is a new program director. Al Gardner comes back to his native Philadelphia from WBT (1110 Charlotte NC), where he’d been morning host. Gardner has a history with Michaels: in the 1980s, they were midday co-hosts on WLW in Cincinnati, where he was known as “Alan Gardner.”
Will Merlin have any better luck getting a strong start in the all-news wars in Philadelphia than it has experienced in New York and Chicago? Hiring Gardner is certainly a good start, and WKDN will face somewhat less competition from CBS than in Chicago (where WBBM quickly added its own FM simulcast) or New York (where CBS has the one-two punch of WCBS and WINS). Merlin faces some bigger obstacles in Philadelphia, though – it will have to move quickly to bring the 106.9 signal up to parity, and it will have to build studio facilities from scratch instead of inheriting existing plants from Emmis as it did in New York and Chicago. Needless to say, we’ll be following Merlin’s progress closely in the weeks to come. (We’ll be looking at Family, too: will the $31 million or so that it pockets from the sale of WFSI and WKDN be enough to cover the immense cost of the PR campaign for the non-apocalypse earlier this year, or will Family’s board eventually feel compelled to consider selling some of the network’s other big signals, including New York-market WFME 94.7?
*The week produced some other big stories out of the Keystone State, too: in Pittsburgh, Marshall Adams is out after five years as news director (and later “Director of News/Talk Programming”) at CBS Radio’s KDKA (1020).
Adams came back to his native western Pennsylvania in 2006 after working as news director of WBT in Charlotte, and he took a tremendous amount of pride on his hometown station’s history and legacy, filling his office with KDKA memorabilia. No replacement has yet been named.
Down the road just a bit (and just outside our usual coverage area), we note that WSTV (1340 Steubenville OH), owned by Pennsylvania-based Keymarket Communications, has gone silent. The station, which traced its history back to 1940, lost the lease on its transmitter site on a hill overlooking Steubenville; the site belongs to Cox’s WTOV (Channel 9), the former WSTV-TV.
*In the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton market, Fox affiliate WOLF-TV (Channel 56) is off the air after its transmission line on Penobscot Mountain was perforated by three bullet holes over the weekend. It’s the latest in a series of woes for stations using Penobscot, where signal after signal has been knocked off the air in recent years by transmitter-building fires (public broadcaster WVIA) and tower collapses. And it’s the latest in a series of displays of cooperation among the market’s broadcasters: ABC affiliate WNEP donated a spare transmission system to WVIA to get it back on the air, and now Nexstar’s quasi-duopoly of WBRE (Channel 28) and WYOU (Channel 22) has come to the aid of WOLF-TV, putting WOLF’s Fox signal on WBRE’s 28.2 subchannel and the MyNetwork TV programming of sister station WQMY on WYOU’s 22.2. (WQMY’s main transmitter remains on the air over in Williamsport, but most of its viewers were seeing the station on WOLF’s 56.3 subchannel; 56.2 carried the CW programming from another sister station, WSWB 38 Scranton.)
WOLF says it expects to have a tower crew in place the week of December 19th to install 850 feet of replacement transmission line so it can get its own signal (on RF channel 45) back on the air.
While we’re up on Penobscot, Cumulus’ WBSX (97.9 Hazleton) is losing its PD of five years and afternoon jock of seven years: “McKay” is leaving 97.9X to go back to school, where he’s seeking a doctorate in physical therapy. He’ll depart the station December 23.
Philadelphia-based Main Line Broadcasting has a new leader: founder and CEO Dan Savadove has exited, and veteran manager Nancy Vaeth (well known in the region for her time at the helm of Susquehanna Radio) is now interim CEO of the group. Main Line owns stations in Louisville, Dayton and Richmond as well as a cluster straddling the Mason-Dixon line in Hagerstown and Chambersburg, including WCHA (800 Chambersburg) and WIKZ (95.1 Chambersburg).
*The big news out of NEW YORK comes from big Cumulus talker WABC (770), where mid-morning talker Joe Crummey was the only non-syndicated weekday voice on the station…at least until the end of the week, when he was pulled from his 10-noon shift. No official announcement has been made about Crummey’s replacement, but the rumor mill is churning up the name of Geraldo Rivera as the new occupant of that slot.
Meanwhile, Cumulus is overhauling its overnight “Red Eye Radio” show, merging the former Citadel property with Cumulus’ own “Midnight Radio.” The new show will be called “Red Eye Radio,” but will be hosted by “Midnight” hosts Gary McNamara and Eric Harley. That sends “Red Eye” host Doug McIntyre back to local duty in Los Angeles, where he takes over mornings at Cumulus’ KABC (790) and presumably gives up the 5-6 AM shift he’d been hosting remotely for WABC, where he was the lead-in to Don Imus. (And did we mention that Imus just marked 40 years in New York radio, give or take his brief ouster from WNBC in the late 1970s?)
*Radio Managers on the Move: Chuck Benfer has made the drive back down the Thruway from Albany, where he was general manager at Albany Broadcasting’s cluster, to Poughkeepsie. Benfer was the longtime general manager for Cumulus in the Hudson Valley, but now he’ll be with the competition: he’s the new market manager at the Clear Channel Poughkeepsie cluster, where he replaces Brett Beshore, recently promoted back to his home base in Indiana, where he’s now heading Clear Channel Outdoor in Indianapolis.
Clear Channel is adding the Red Sox to its lineup in Albany: when the baseball season resumes next spring, WOFX (980 Troy) will be carrying the Boston broadcasts instead of its longtime affiliation with the New York Mets. In recent years, WOFX had been the Mets’ only affiliate outside of flagship WFAN (660), whose huge signal reaches just fine up the Hudson Valley to Albany; the Sox, meanwhile, had been a little hard to hear in Albany, on the fringes of affiliates in Johnstown, Catskill and Pittsfield.
More Radio People on the Move: Ken Martin is the new PD and production manager for Community Broadcasters’ stations in Watertown and Ogdensburg, while downstate there’s another job added to the busy career of “Skywalker.” He does afternoons on Pamal’s WSPK (104.7 Poughkeepsie), where he’s also PD; he tracks middays at WBPM (92.9 Saugerties), and now he’s also tracking middays on sister station WZMR (104.9) up in Albany.
Catholic radio is getting an FM signal in Rochester: Holy Family Communications, which owns Catholic WHIC (1460), is buying translator W225AR (92.9 Webster) from Family Life Ministries for . W225AR was operating from the WBEE (92.5) tower in Penfield, but it has filed for 250 watts, directional, from Pinnacle Hill. That’s a pretty hefty translator signal, and it comes with a pretty hefty sale price of $75,000.
Our friends at CNYRadio.com report the death of Barbara Hall, longtime women’s editor at WHCU (870 Ithaca). Hall came on board at WHCU in 1948 when she graduated from Cornell, and she remained on the air at the station in one capacity or another, including a weekend travel show, until 2007. Hall died Tuesday (Dec. 6) at age 89.
*Across the state line in MASSACHUSETTS, Erica Kay is the new morning jock at Vox’s WBEC-FM (95.9 Pittsfield), moving west from WFHN (107.1 Fairhaven/New Bedford). Kay takes the place of Megan Carlotta, who’s becoming spokesperson for the Marian Fathers of Stockbridge.
There’s word that WTUB (700 Orange-Athol) has changed formats, dropping ESPN Radio in favor of a simulcast of sister station WXRG (99.9 Athol), which in turn simulcasts AAA “River” WXRV (92.5 Andover) from the Boston market.
On TV, there’s a new look today at WBZ-TV (Channel 4): the CBS owned-and-operated station is returning “Channel 4” to its on-air identity after many years using just its callsign. The new logo (left) began to show up over the air late last week, and it will make its full-fledged debut tonight at 5, when WBZ also unveils a new, larger news set to replace the relatively small one it’s been using (with various modifications) for the last decade or so.
Where are they now? Former WRKO (680 Boston) PD Kevin Straley has been named vice president of programming at TuneIn, the online radio streaming service. Straley spent much of the last decade at XM Radio, where he was senior VP of talk programming.
*Some big news from VERMONT: after literally decades of applications and construction permits, classical WCVT (101.7 Stowe) has signed on a new class C2 signal from the state’s highest point, the top of Mount Mansfield.
The station, owned by Ken Squier’s Radio Vermont Classics, has moved around in its 20-some years on the air: the former WVMX started out as a class A signal on Mansfield, running just 43 watts, but eventually moved south to Ricker Mountain, where it upgraded from class A (135 watts/2066′) to C3 (500 watts/2066′). Its new facility on Mansfield is a 1 kW/2653′ directional C2 using a new Shively antenna, providing improved line-of-sight and a somewhat stronger signal into Burlington and vicinity.
Fox Sports Radio has vanished from the Burlington airwaves, too: Steve Silberberg’s WCAT (1390) quietly flipped from sports to a simulcast of oldies WIFY (93.7) last month. WCAT lost the ESPN affiliation in January, when it moved to FM on WCPV (101.3).
*In MAINE, there are new owners at WPHX (1220 Sanford): Carl Strube and Pete Falconi’s Port Broadcasting is paying FNX Broadcasting $42,500 for the long-neglected little AM signal, which runs 1000 watts by day, 230 watts at night. In recent years, WPHX was running ESPN sports when it was on the air at all, but it was essentially just tagging along with its sister FM signal, recently sold to Aruba Capital Holdings to become WXEX-FM (92.1). As for WPHX, it becomes a sister station to WNBP (1450 Newburyport), which Strube and Falconi have been running as a nifty little local signal for Cape Ann.
Over in Portland, WPOR (101.9) is looking for a new morning co-host; Alisha Bolin is leaving the “Morning Crew” and hasn’t announced where she’s going yet.
*There’s one fewer station on the air in French CANADA this week: Cogeco was ordered to divest CJTS (104.5 Sherbrooke) as part of its purchase of Corus’ Quebec radio stations, but it says it was unable to find a suitable buyer, and so it pulled the plug on the station at noon on Tuesday (December 6). Cogeco had kept the format that had been on 104.5 – it was part of the Montreal-based “CKOI” hot AC network under its old calls of CKOY, which now live on 107.7 (ex-CHLT) in Cogeco’s hands. The former 107.7 format, French oldies “Souvenirs Garantis,” had moved to 104.5, and it’s that format that went away on Tuesday, along with about a dozen jobs in Sherbrooke. Cogeco still has two stations in Sherbrooke: CKOY on 107.7 and “Rhythme FM” CFGE (93.7).
Radio People on the Move in eastern Ontario: the CIKR (105.7 Kingston) morning team of Jeff (Brown) and Sarah (Crosbie) are headed west in the spring, where they’ll take over mornings on Corus’ CFGQ (Q107) in Calgary, Alberta. Q107’s current morning man, Terry DiMonte, is headed the other way – he’s going back to Montreal for mornings at CHOM (97.7).
Two new signals coming to the airwaves: in the Toronto suburbs, Subanasiri Vaithkingam has been granted a new low-power station targeted at the Tamil, Punjabi and Filipino communities. The new station will run 45 watts on 105.9. And in Micmac, Nova Scotia, “Shubie FM Radio” has been granted 50 watts/23 meters on 97.1 for a new community station broadcasting in both the English and Mikmaw languages, with the callsign to be CIPU.
In Ottawa, Carleton University’s CKCU (93.1) was off the air for a few days after a fire at the Camp Fortune, Quebec transmitter site damaged its antenna. The fire also knocked two other stations, CIHT (Hot 89.9) and Radio-Canada’s CBOF (90.7) off the air briefly. Meanwhile, Dan Sys’ Canadian Radio News reports that English-language travelers information station CIIO could be back on the air: it’s applying to move from 99.7, where it was displaced by the debut of CJOT (“EZ Rock 99.7”), to 97.5, where it would replace French-language sister station CIIF.
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: December 11, 2010 –
There’s a new general manager at Boston’s WBUR-FM (90.9), but Charlie Kravets is a familiar name in eastern MASSACHUSETTS broadcasting, where he spent the last two decades building New England Cable News from the ground up. Kravets was NECN’s founding news director back in 1992, becoming the channel’s president and general manager in 2008 before departing when Hearst sold its interest in NECN to Comcast. And he has deep ties to his WBUR predecessor: like Paul La Camera, Kravets has roots at WCVB (Channel 5), where he was the original producer of “Chronicle” and later assistant news director.
Kravets takes over the helm of WBUR on New Year’s Day; La Camera will stick around as an ambassador for the station and as BU’s administrator of public radio.
Meanwhile, WBUR has launched a new promotional campaign for the station; you can see one of the “UR BUR” TV spots here, and you can read some pithy quotes from your friendly editor in a story about the ad campaign from Saturday’s Boston Globe.
*Our NEW YORK news starts in the Hudson Valley, where veteran morning man Mark Bolger lost his job after Thursday’s morning show at WBWZ (93.3 New Paltz). The cancellation of the “Star 93.3” morning show also left co-host Kimberly Kay without a job; so far, no replacement for mornings there has been announced. There’s a new operations manager at the Clear Channel cluster in Poughkeepsie that’s home to WBWZ, WRWD, WKIP and “Kiss” WPKF: He’s Stephen Giuttari, who’d been PD at WCTK in New Bedford/Providence and WYGY in Cincinnati and was most recently working for Hearst in Seattle. Former CC/HV operations manager Reg Osterhoudt is now the cluster’s director of engineering.
The Buffalo church that was leasing time on Citadel’s WHLD (1270 Niagara Falls) for a black gospel format appears to have found a new radio home. The former “Totally Gospel 1270” will come back on the air on the new WFWO (89.7 Medina), at least according to the church’s TotallyGospel.com website. WFWO wasn’t yet on the air when last we checked, though in October the FCC granted an application to shift the construction permit from Maine-based Positive Radio Network (the folks behind WMSJ in Freeport) to the FellowshipWorld church in Buffalo. FellowshipWorld will pay $10,000 for WFWO, and will presumably get an extra 18 months beyond the current April 22, 2011 expiration date to build out the WFWO CP.
With 2.2 kW/216′ from a site in central Orleans County, WFWO itself won’t put much signal over Buffalo (especially with first-adjacent WFBF 89.9 right in town), but it could provide FellowshipWorld with a platform from which to put translators in town. And as we noted when FellowshipWorld was programming WHLD, there’s another nifty radio connection here: the church’s home at 1420 Main Street is the old Churchill Tabernacle building that was the birthplace of WKBW radio and later the home of the WKBW-TV studios for channel 7’s first twenty years.
Nobody’s been doing more for the cause of CONNECTICUT radio history than WCCC/WWUH engineer John Ramsey, who’s been building up the Connecticut Broadcast History website. Ramsey’s presentation to the Newington Amateur Radio League on radio history in Hartford and vicinity is now on YouTube in four parts via the WTIC Alumni website; check them all out here!
Where are they now? Former PENNSYLVANIA Keymarket programming VP Frank Bell has an exciting new job: he’s the new director of radio and research for 13 Management, working with Taylor Swift. Bell has a long connection to the country star – her father worked for Bell as an account executive back in the day.
It was one of the most recognized station IDs in all of CANADA: “This is CITY-TV, EVERYWHERE!”
The voice behind that ID was silenced last week: Mark Dailey was just 57 when he lost his battle with cancer on Monday, ending a long career as an announcer, reporter and anchor at CITY. Dailey came to Canada from Youngstown, Ohio, where he worked as a policeman before crossing to the other side as a reporter. His first Canadian gig was at the legendary CKLW (800) in Windsor; he came to Toronto to work at CHUM in 1974 and then moved to CITY in 1979, anchoring the 11 PM “CityPulse” newscast, hosting the station’s late movies and of course voicing the distinctive station IDs that made CITY a unique TV station in its heyday.
Five Years Ago: December 10, 2006 –
Progressive talk will soon be history, it seems, in eastern MASSACHUSETTS, as Clear Channel’s continued corporate retreat from the format brings a format change at WKOX (1200 Framingham) and WXKS (1430 Everett), which have struggled to find an audience since flipping from leased-time Spanish (on WKOX) and standards (on WXKS) in October 2004.
Almost from the first day of the new format, rumors began flying about its possible demise. In the last few weeks, as Air America’s financial struggles worsened and other progressive talkers slipped away from the format, the rumors began getting louder. Then, last week, Brian Maloney’s “Radio Equalizer” blog spotted a Clear Channel help-wanted ad for salespeople for the new “Rumba 1200/1430,” and while the company still hasn’t officially confirmed the move, it’s becoming clearer that the progressive talk format will be replaced by Spanish tropical music within the next few weeks.
Much has been written, here and on the message boards, about the challenges WKOX/WXKS faced in finding an audience, most notably a pair of night signals that served only listeners in the MetroWest and north suburban areas, completely missing Boston, Cambridge and much of the rest of the market. Unlike some of the more successful progressive talkers around the country (most notably two other Clear Channel signals, KLSD San Diego and KPOJ Portland, Oregon), WKOX/WXKS never added any local personalities to the national lineup of Air America and other syndicated hosts it carried. In a market so intensely focused on its local politics, many interpreted the lack of local presence as a sign that Clear Channel wasn’t committed to the format in Boston over the long term.
In the end, though, local factors may not have determined the demise of progressive talk on WKOX and WXKS. Instead, it was a national trend within the company, which is in the process of pulling the format off the air in markets from Madison, Wisconsin to Cincinnati to – rumor has it, at least – Los Angeles. With questions arising about the future of Air America as a 24-hour programming network, it’s understandable that broadcasters looking for a turnkey syndicated product are getting uneasy about sticking with progressive talk, and we should note that Clear Channel’s hardly alone in that respect, with companies such as Citadel (in Binghamton) and Entercom (in New Orleans) also dropping the format in recent weeks.
Could progressive talk find a home on another signal in town? There are always “what if” options in play, it seems, and it’s never out of the question that a committed, deep-pocketed investor could purchase WWZN (1510) from Sporting News Radio, for instance, and move the format there. (We’d note that Sheldon and Anita Drobny, who were early investors in Air America before selling their stake, have been trying to grow their new Nova M talk network, for instance.)
There’s a changing of the guard at the helm of Boston’s biggest public broadcaster. After 36 years with WGBH, the last 22 of them as the station’s president, Henry Becton announced last week that he’s stepping down next fall. Becton, who oversaw a huge expansion of WGBH’s local and national production efforts, culminating in the station’s impending move to a new studio facility overlooking the Mass Pike in Allston, says he’ll remain with the station in an advisory role. Effective October 1, 2007, he’ll be replaced by executive VP/COO Jon Abbott as WGBH president.
Clear Channel is consolidating its five FM stations in NEW YORK into a single facility. It’s reportedly signed a 15-year lease for more than 120,000 square feet of space on the first four floors of 32 Avenue of the Americas in lower Manhattan. Sometime next year, WHTZ (100.3 Newark) and WKTU (103.5 Lake Success) will move across the Hudson from their separate studios in Jersey City, while WAXQ (104.3), WWPR (105.1) and WLTW (106.7) will all move south from their separate facilities in Midtown Manhattan. (Clear Channel had earlier planned to move all five stations into the Manhattan Mall, but a lease deal there fell through.)
Syracuse isn’t usually in the vanguard where new formats are concerned, but it gets the distinction of being the first market in NERW-land to get a “Movin” outlet, the Alan Burns-consulted rhythmic AC format that gained early toeholds in Seattle and Los Angeles.
The newest “Movin” is Craig Fox’s trio of FM signals in the Salt City – WOLF-FM (96.7 Oswego), WWLF-FM (100.3 Sylvan Beach) and W243AB (96.5 Westvale), which made the flip from Radio Disney on Thursday. Radio Disney continues on the air in Syracuse on WOLF (1490), WWLF (1340 Auburn) and WAMF (1300 Fulton).
Ten Years Ago: December 10, 2001 –
Listeners to Sporting News Radio in northern NEW JERSEY have long complained about the phasing problems that have made WSNR (620 Newark) almost unlistenable in most of the area. But if the Sporting News flagship is granted its latest application, those problems will be replaced by a powerful signal over the region. In its application, WSNR wants to build seven new towers (painted, lit and 107 meters tall!) in the Hatfield Swamp of West Caldwell, near where US 46, I-80 and I-280 all meet. That’s not very far from the site in Livingston that AM 620 used for much of its life (as WVNJ, WSKQ and WXLX) before losing the land to residential development. Since that site was leveled in 1998, 620 (under later calls of WJWR and WSNR) has used a five-tower array it built just south of WLIB (1190 New York) in the Lyndhurst, N.J. tower farm. But while that site offered decent penetration into Manhattan, it forced 620 to throw a null over the very areas in New Jersey it was licensed to serve. That problem should be solved if WSNR is granted this application, which calls for 8200 watts day (from all seven towers) and 5000 watts at night (from five of the seven). We’ll keep you posted…
We’ll skip down to DELAWARE for the next bit of news: the return of WNRK (1260 Newark) to the airwaves. Local observers had given this one up for dead when it lost its transmitter site to development (detect a theme this week?) and signed off June 25, but we’re happy to report that the station returned to the air November 21. The National Radio Club’s DX News reports this week that WNRK was purchased by John Vincent (owner of nearby WAMS 1600 in Dover), who’s got the station running Christmas tunes from a 197-foot longwire antenna at a site less than 1000 feet from the old WNRK location. The plans for WNRK call for its new 250-watt nondirectional signal to move to a Valcom fiberglass antenna (like the one in use at WSHP 1480 Shippensburg PA and proposed for WGCH 1490 Greenwich CT) sometime next year.
It’s all about history in CANADA this week: Wednesday (Dec. 12) marks the centenary of Marconi’s transmission of the Morse letter “S” to Signal Hill in St. John’s, Newfoundland from Poldhu, Wales, and several big celebrations are planned. The CBC is pulling out all the stops for a “Tuning the World” special that will run from 8:30 AM until 1 PM on Wednesday on Radio One, featuring live broadcasts from around the world. There’s more going on as well on the CBC; check out their special site at www.tuningtheworld.com for all the details. (LATE UPDATE: A labor-management dispute at the CBC forced the cancellation of the live portions of the broadcast; taped segments were heard for much of the day on shows such as “This Morning” and “Ideas”.)
Fifteen Years Ago: December 10-12, 1996 –
Salem Broadcasting is wasting no time exercising its option to buy Boston’s WBNW (590) from Back Bay Broadcasting. As of Sunday morning, December 15, WBNW will drop its business news and talk format to become the latest outlet in Salem’s chain of religious and conservative-talk stations. WBNW was the product of American Radio Systems’ purchase of the call letters and format of the old WEEI (590) in August 1994. At that time, ARS was not permitted to own three AMs in Boston, so it took the WEEI calls and sports format to the former WHDH (850), kept its talker WRKO (680), and sold the 590 facility to broadcaster Peter Ottmar, who also owned WARA (1320 Attleboro MA) and WWKX (106.3 Woonsocket-Providence RI). After a few weeks of rebroadcasting WEEI, WBNW debuted in September 1994 with a mix of Bloomberg Business News, local business talk, and satellite talk such as Bruce Williams.
WBNW’s salespeople were dismissed on Monday, and it’s not clear whether any of WBNW’s other staffers (mostly board operators) will stay on under Salem. WBNW is likely to move from its current studios, the old WEEI facility in the Schrafft Center in Charlestown, to the studios of Salem’s existing Boston operation, WEZE (1260), in Marina Bay, Quincy. Salem will move WBNW out of its studios in the Schraffts Center in Charlestown (where 590 has been located since 1990, when it was still all-news WEEI — how long ago that now seems!), and into the WEZE studios in Marina Bay, Quincy. A published report in the Boston Globe quotes WEZE execs as complaining about the high rent they’ll also inherit for the 590 transmitter site in Medford…but there’s not much they can do about that, NERW thinks. The existing 1260 site, south of Boston in Milton, Mass., would not be suitable for 590.
Fans of the Bloomberg business programming formerly heard on 590 won’t be completely out of luck. WADN (1120) in Concord announced that it will be picking up Bloomberg business reports several times hourly during the day, as well as carrying three hour-long blocks of Bloomberg programming. WADN’s signal outside the western suburbs is spotty to non-existent, though, and the business news isn’t exactly an ideal fit to the station’s nominal format of folk music. On the other hand, WADN is also reported to be in financial trouble, and anything that can draw a few more listeners will probably be tried out there.
One more brand-new station out there: WSHX is now on the air at 95.7 from Danville VT, joining sister stations WNCS (104.7 Montpelier VT) and WRJT (103.1 Royalton VT) as AAA “The Point.” With the addition of WSHX in the Northeast Kingdom region, Northeast Broadcasting now reaches most of Northern and Central Vermont, from just north of Rutland up to the Canadian border. The Northeast Kingdom is getting awfully over-radioed, as WSHX joins existing AM-FM combos WIKE 1490 Newport/WMOO 92.1 Derby Center (locally owned and operated by Tom Steele), WSTJ 1340/WNKV 105.5 St. Johnsbury (which also own WMTK 106.3 Littleton NH), and WGMT 98.3 Lyndon, which holds a CP to increase power and move to 97.7. All that for a few thousand people and a lot of cows…yes, there’s a reason Tom named his FM “WMOO”!
A familiar voice has returned to the Boston airwaves on WROR (105.7 Framingham-Boston). Joe Martelle, the longtime morning host at the original WROR (98.5, now WBMX) began his new afternoon shift at the new ‘ROR last week, after his non-compete agreement with WBMX came to an end. It’s been more than a year since Martelle’s been heard in Boston; he was sidelined by illness, then ousted from his morning spot at WBMX in favor of John Lander.
Sold!: Clear Channel Communications has closed on its purchase of Radio Equity Partners, creating a new radio-TV combo in the Providence market, as WWBB (101.5 Providence, oldies “B101”) and WWRX (103.7 Westerly, classic rock “WRX”) join CBS affiliate WPRI-TV 12 under the Clear Channel umbrella. The deal also gives Clear Channel WHYN and WHYN-FM in Springfield MA. WHYN is a news-talker on 560, and WHYN-FM is hot AC on 93.1. Congratulations to WHYN PD Gary James and the staff, by the way, for what NERW hears was a phenomenally successful reunion sock hop last month!
Also closed is the deal that transfers news/sports WNEZ (910 New Britain-Hartford CT) from American Radio Systems to Mega Spanish Broadcasters. Look for a format change at WNEZ any day now; we’ll keep you posted.