In this week’s issue… CRTC denies new Southern Ontario AM – FM talk simulcast nearing its end? – WMVY successor hits fundraising goal – Western MA pubcaster adds signal – PA TV stations add HD newscasts
By SCOTT FYBUSH
*For decades now, broadcasters in the U.S. have played the move-in game: get licensed to a community somewhere near a big city, put a signal on the air and begin soliciting advertising from that larger market. (Just ask that station that’s getting all the attention in the New York City market right now – you know, WNSH 94.7 from “Newark, New Jersey”!)
But in CANADA, things work a little differently: if you’re licensed to Newark (so to speak), you’d better not be programming to New York. Or, to put it more concretely: if you’re licensed to St. Catharines, Ontario, you’d better not be programming to Toronto.
That, in a nutshell, is why the CRTC denied the latest attempt to revive AM 1220 in St. Catharines, the frequency vacated last year when the agency ordered that channel’s longtime occupant, CHSC, to leave the air. This time, the proposal came from Subanasiri Vaithilingam, who operates CJVF (105.9 Scarborough), a low-wattage ethnic station that really does serve part of the Toronto market. Vaithilingam’s proposal for 1220 in St. Catharines called for most of the station’s programming to be in English, but with 15 hours a week of “third-language programming in Filipino, Tamil, Russian, Portuguese, and South Asian languages” as well.
That raised a red flag at several competing Toronto-area ethnic stations, which asked the CRTC to look more deeply into whether Vaithilingam intended that third-language programming to be aimed across Lake Ontario at Toronto. The CRTC says it’s “unclear about the applicant’s programming commitments,” and even with a proposed license condition mandating that the “majority” of the new station’s programming be “of direct, particular and specific relevance to residents of St. Catharines and the Niagara Region,” the CRTC says “the potential for the station to target programming to listeners outside St. Catharines and the Niagara Region remains.”
Worse yet, the CRTC says that even if the revived 1220 were to be solely focused on St. Catharines and Niagara, there’s no evidence that the region needs (or even wants) another local station…and thus it appears that the frequency won’t be getting reactivated any time soon (if at all) now that CHSC is defunct. (NERW wonders whether the old nine-tower CHSC array will be coming down soon, since it won’t be getting reused by Vaithilingam’s new station.)
*Is Clear Channel pulling away from its experiments with moving news-talk programming to FM simulcasts? It’s never been as gung-ho about FM news-talk as some of the other big corporate broadcasters such as Bonneville, Hubbard or even CBS Radio, and late last year Clear Channel pulled the plug on one of its FM simulcasts, KOGO-FM (95.7) in the San Diego market. Now there are some interesting signs that several other AM-FM simulcasts could be winding down: in Sacramento, KFBK (1530/92.5) has modified its on-air branding to “KFBK Newsradio,” downplaying its big FM signal – and in central NEW YORK, CNYRadio notes that Syracuse’s WSYR (570/106.9) has significantly tweaked its on-air identity as well.
WSYR made a big deal about the addition of 106.9 (the former WPHR) when it flipped just over two years ago, briefly eliminating any mention of “570” at all. As of mid-January, though, the station is branding itself on the air as “Newsradio 570 WSYR,” with “Now on 106.9 FM” in small print below. Is it just a branding change, or a sign that the FM might be pulling away from the AM for good soon? Nobody at Clear Channel is saying – but we’ll be listening closely to see what happens there, and at other similar simulcasts such as WGY (810/103.1) in Albany, too.
*Radio People on the Move: After 20 years with New York’s WQXR, going back to its days as the Times-owned commercial station, Midge Woolsey is moving on. The midday host did her last shift at WQXR’s current home on 105.9 on Thursday, saying she’s moving on “to devote more time to her family and to explore new and exciting opportunities in New York.” Around the corner at CBS Radio, there’s a replacement for the departed Rob Wagman at CBS’ WNOW-FM (92.3 NOW FM), where Nadine Santos is the new assistant PD/music director. Santos had been working at Music Choice, and before that was APD/MD at Clear Channel’s WWPR. Upstate, Lee Richey adds PD/music director titles to his current job as afternoon host at WKPQ (105.3 Hornell); until now, the country station had been programmed out of Sound Communications’ corporate offices down the road in Corning.
Speaking of Corning, there’s an ownership change at WCBA (1350). The little AM signal, which has been running sports, is currently in the hands of PRG LLC (Phoenix Radio), which picked it up as part of a 2011 swap that sent WKPQ from receivership to Sound Communications’ ownership. Now PRG is selling WCBA to Great Radio LLC, which is controlled by William Christian. He owns Corning-based Fox affiliate WYDC (Channel 48) – and he’s married to Sound owner Paige Christian. When last we checked, WCBA’s Fox Sports programming was still coming out of the Sound studios on Market Street in Corning, and we’d suspect that situation will continue under the new ownership. (Just as in the 2011 WKPQ swap, WCBA is being valued at just $6000 in this deal.)
Down the road in Binghamton, Clear Channel has big upgrade plans for a little translator. W221AX (92.1) has been quietly relaying WKGB (92.5 Conklin) to some areas on the west side of the market that had shadowing issues – but now it appears the cluster has another purpose for the signal. It’s applying to move from 92.1 to 96.9 and to relocate from the Vestal hills to the WMRV (105.7) tower across the river in Endicott. From there, it would jump to 99 watts, becoming a relay of Clear Channel sports outlet WENE (1430 Endicott), the first AM-on-FM translator in the market.
In the Hudson Valley, Clear Channel has quietly made an AM format flip, dropping standards at WHUC (1230 Hudson) in favor of a simulcast of WRWD (107.3 Highland), its Poughkeepsie-based country signal that’s also heard in the Catskills on WRWB (99.3 Ellenville). This is the second time in a year that Clear Channel has attempted a format change at 1230; last year, it went so far as to apply for a call change to WAIP as part of a plan to create a three-station talk simulcast based at WKIP (1450 Poughkeepsie), only to decide to stick with WHUC and standards after all. (The third station was 1370 in Ellenville, which did become a WKIP simulcast under new calls WJIP, only to flip again a few months later to all-comedy.)
And speaking of callsigns, New York’s new “Nash FM 94.7” is now officially WNSH. While the commenters on some message boards were speculating about a call swap with the Minnesota Cumulus station where those WNSH calls had been parked, NERW readers knew last week that the applications had already been filed to make 94.7 WNSH and to send the WRXP calls out to Minnesota. (Why send those New York calls to the Twin Cities? Because it still seems likely that they’ll be parked there only temporarily while Cumulus plots a format flip at WFAS-FM 103.9 just north of New York City.)
*We can’t leave New York, of course, without writing about Ed Koch. After his death early Friday at age 88, the veteran politician was being best remembered for his years as the city’s mayor – but this being NERW, we pay particular attention to his years as a radio host. During his three terms as mayor from 1978 until 1989, Koch was frequently behind the mic on WCBS (880) for “Ask the Mayor” call-in shows, and after he left office he embarked on a new and very successful career as a talk host on WABC (770). Koch also did a few years on the “bench” of “The People’s Court,” and most recently he’d been heard on a weekly call-in hour at WBBR (1130), the station owned by his successor Michael Bloomberg.
*Off the coast of MASSACHUSETTS, the nonprofit “Friends of MVYradio” has scored a big victory along the way to its goal of keeping the AAA format of WMVY (92.7 Tisbury) alive after Aritaur Communications completes its sale of the broadcast license to Boston’s WBUR-FM (90.9). The “Friends” group, led by longtime WMVY programmer Barbara Dacey, set an ambitious fundraising goal of $600,000 in just two months to acquire WMVY’s studio facility on Martha’s Vineyard and relaunch the station as a web-only operation. As of January 25, the Friends announced they’d made their goal and will be able to keep ‘MVY alive on the web at least through the end of 2013. “We are already starting to look ahead,” says the group’s announcement, with plans to secure grants and underwriting support in hopes of also finding a new FM home once 92.7 switches to a WBUR simulcast under new calls WBUA. (The exact date for that switch hasn’t been announced yet, but it’s expected to happen within the next few weeks.)
After a series of tryouts, Clear Channel’s WJMN (Jam’n 94.5) has picked a new co-host to work alongside morning man Ramiro. The nod goes to former MTV reality star Ashlee Feldman, who’s now part of the cast of the renamed “Ramiro’s House” following last year’s ouster of longtime co-host Pebbles. (She, of course, is now across town at Greater Media’s “Hot 96.9” WTKK, working alongside former “Ramiro and Pebbles” producer Melissa and former WJMN programmer Cadillac Jack,)
There may not be a lot of HD Radio listeners out there in Boston, but there are enough of them to have noticed when the Christmas tunes that started early last autumn on WODS-FM (103.3)’s HD3 channel kept going deep into January. Last week, CBS finally flipped the HD3 out of holiday mode and into soft AC, reviving the “Cove” format that had been on 103.3-HD2 until WODS’ main channel went to “Amp” and the HD2 picked up classic hits. (At last check, CBS was still jingle-belling away on another all-Christmas HD subchannel, WWFS 102.7-HD2 in New York.)
In Brockton, silent WXBR (1460) is coming back to the air under new owner Azure Media. Azure president Jhonson Napoleon tells the Boston Globe that along with the transmitter, much of the ground system (or, as the paper would have it, “copper plates”!) at WXBR’s West Bridgewater tower site had to be replaced after being stolen – and combined with the construction of a new studio at 250 Belmont Street, that’s delayed the station’s return to broadcasting. WXBR was last on the air August 3, and it was reportedly back on the air with test broadcasts on Saturday, just under the six-month STA deadline.
*Out west, there’s another signal joining the fast-growing footprint of the networks based at WFCR (88.5 Amherst). In addition to the main WFCR signal, licensed to UMass itself, the affiliated “New England Public Radio Foundation” has been busy acquiring more licenses to carry the secondary news/talk format based at WNNZ (640 Westfield). The WNNZ programming is already being simulcast on WNNZ-FM (91.7 Deerfield) and will soon be on the air in the northern Berkshires on WNNI (98.9 Adams) – and now the network is also adding a southern Berkshires outlet with the $7,500 acquisition of a construction permit on 89.5 in Great Barrington. That signal was originally granted to the Berkshire Community Radio Alliance (BCRA), which would have used it to replace WBCR-LP (97.7 Great Barrington) but is now apparently staying put on 97.7.
Interestingly, WFCR itself (via UMass) was one of the competing applicants for 89.5, losing out on points to BCRA because BCRA would have owned only one station compared with UMass’ multiple licenses around the state. Ordinarily, BCRA wouldn’t be allowed to transfer the CP to another party during a three-year holding period after winning the CP that way, but there’s a loophole allowing for such a transfer if it’s to an entity that would have scored as many or more points in the FCC’s competitive system, and if the buyer doesn’t pay the seller more than its actual expenses in pursuing the CP. While WFCR/UMass itself lost out on points, the NEPR Foundation (had it applied) would have won even more points than BCRA for a superior technical facility and for having no other signals that it owns within the 89.5 coverage area.
*Boston’s WBZ (1030) has lost another traffic legend. After the retirement of Joe Green (who died in 2006), the reports “from the BZ Copter” came from Joe Morgan, who took on that role in 1997 and stayed in the skies over Boston until his own retirement in 2011. Morgan came to WBZ with a long news career already behind him, beginning at the old WCOP (1150) in 1968 and continuing as news director at WRKO (680) and WHDH (850). Morgan had been ill for some time; he died Wednesday (Jan. 30) at age 67.
*A format shift in western CONNECTICUT: WAXB (850 Ridgefield) has dropped Cumulus’ “True Oldies Channel” network and has moved its musical mix forward a couple of decades. It’s still branding as “B107.3” (for its Danbury translator), but is now locally automated as “Danbury’s Classic Hits.”
*There’s a powerful new noncommercial FM signal on MAINE‘s central coast. WMEY (88.1 Bowdoin) is the latest link in Light of Life Ministries’ growing FM network based in Augusta at WWWA (95.3 Winslow). The 50 kW (vertical-only)/129′ DA facility will put a 60 dBu signal over Augusta, Lewiston and down to the coast around Bath.
It was a big week for MPBN television: the statewide public TV system received clearance from the state legislature to launch a new channel called “MPBN State House,” which will be devoted to live coverage of legislative proceedings and other events in Augusta, overseen by longtime statehouse reporter Mal Leary. The new channel will be distributed around the state on an over-the-air subchannel of MPBN TV. The network also landed a $750,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development Program to replace and upgrade much of its statewide microwave distribution network to improve the system’s reliability.
And there’s a new news director coming to WCSH (Channel 6) in Portland and sister station WLBZ (Channel 2) in Bangor: Mike Redding moves north later this month from Gannett sister station WFMY (Channel 2) in Greensboro, N.C., where he’s been executive producer.
*In central PENNSYLVANIA, Nexstar Communications’ rollout of high-definition local news around the region has added another smaller market: Altoona’s WTAJ (Channel 10) is putting the finishing touches on its conversion to HD, complete with a new set and new graphics. GM Phil Dubrow says the switchover has cost “hundreds of thousands of dollars”; it puts WTAJ on par with Cox’s WJAC (Channel 6), which has been producing its own news (as well as newscasts for Fox affiliate WWCP and ABC affiliate WATM) in HD for several years.
To the east, Hearst’s WGAL (Channel 8) in Lancaster launches a 10 PM newscast tonight. The new show will air on WGAL’s “MeTV” 8.2 subchannel, competing against existing 10 PM offerings from Tribune’s Fox affiliate, WPMT (Channel 43) in York and the WHP-TV-produced 10 PM newscast on CW sister station WLYH (Channel 15). Ron Martin and Janelle Stelson anchor the weekday 10 PM show (as well as the 11 PM show on WGAL’s main NBC channel), while Jim Sinkovitz will anchor on weekends.
Philadelphia’s independent public TV station has moved to new digs: after more than a decade in the old WFLN-FM studios next to the Roxborough tower farm, “MiND TV” (WYBE Channel 35) relocated in late January to more centrally-located facilities at 441 North 5th Street in Philadelphia.
Four Rivers Community Broadcasting has turned on another of its “Word FM” religious outlets: it’s filed for a license to cover for WPAZ (89.1 Mohrsville), just north of Reading. (The station ended up with the WPAZ callsign when Four Rivers purchased the original WPAZ, 1370 in Pottstown, from Great Scott in order to lease it out to a community group hoping to save the little AM signal; after a short run under new calls of WBZH, 1370 fell silent last year.)
On the state’s western edge, EMF Broadcasting is realigning its lineup serving the nearby Youngstown, Ohio market. The nationwide religious broadcaster has closed on its purchase of WRBP (101.9 Hubbard OH) and plans to install its flagship “K-Love” format there. That move will shift WLVX (107.1 Greenville PA) from K-Love to “Air 1” Christian rock. For now, EMF has changed the calls on 101.9 from WRBP to WYLR (a callsign we last saw in Glens Falls, N.Y. many years ago) – but the company is very precise about aligning callsigns with formats, and calls with “LV” in them tend to go with K-Love, while those with “Y” in them go to Air 1, so we’d suspect a call swap between 101.9 and 107.1 will be in the offing.
*Erie’s NBC and CBS affiliates are boasting improved production capability this month. Ever since Lilly Communications moved the CBS affiliate, WSEE (Channel 35), in with NBC affiliate WICU (Channel 12) in 2009, the stations had been sharing a single production control room. That meant that even after dividing the old WICU studio into two separate smaller studios, only one station could originate live local news at any given time – which in turn meant that the WSEE newscasts in the most important dayparts (6 AM, 6 PM, 11 PM) were taped replays of earlier shows. (WSEE’s morning news was done live at 4 AM, while the 11 PM show was a replay of the 10 PM newscast on WSEE’s 35.2 CW channel.)
That’s no longer the case: as of last week, a second HD control room across the hall from the studios has been completed, allowing both WICU and WSEE to originate local HD newscasts simultaneously, further upping the ante as the Lilly duopoly competes with Nexstar’s ABC/Fox duo, WJET/WFXP, which are still in SD.
Another Erie note: we’re sorry to see that the Press and Tower website, which has been chronicling the goings-on in Erie radio, TV and newspapers since late 2008, has closed up shop as of Friday. In his farewell message, proprietor Joel Natalie says he’s too busy with other projects of late, and he says he’ll keep the site’s Twitter feed active as media news breaks in northwestern Pennsylvania.
*And we note the passing of Ralph Collier, who started in broadcasting with the Army in World War II, spent some time here in Rochester at WHAM/WHAM-TV in the early 1950s, and then established himself in Philadelphia as one of the city’s top interviewers. Collier moved from WCAU to WFLN (900/95.7) in the mid-1960s and remained with the classical station until 1988, hosting a daily interview show. Collier later moved on to WRTI (90.1) and WBUX (1570 Doylestown) before retiring in 2011. Collier also served for 15 years as the president of the Campbell Soup Tureen Museum. He died Tuesday (Jan. 29) at age 91.
*It’s 2013! Do you have your 2013 Tower Site Calendar yet? It can be on your wall in just a few days, if you order right now!
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!
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: February 6, 2012 –
*Less than a year after New Jersey governor Chris Christie handed over operation of the state’s public TV and radio network to out-of-state broadcasters, RHODE ISLAND‘s PBS outlet is facing the prospect of losing its state funding.
WSBE’s studios, 2009
A budget proposal last week from governor Lincoln Chafee would reduce state support of Rhode Island PBS (WSBE-TV 36) from just under a million dollars in fiscal 2011-2012 to $425,000 in 2012-2013 and then to zero in subsequent years.
Beyond the end of state funding, Chafee apparently isn’t envisioning a complete shutdown of the “RI PBS” service. Like the old NJN networks, the WSBE license is held by a state agency, the Rhode Island Public Telecommunications Authority – but unlike NJN, “RI PBS” has long looked beyond state funding as its major source of support, depending on a combination of membership and underwriting ($1.2 million in last year’s budget) and Corporation for Public Broadcasting grants ($700,000 last year) to make up about 60% of its $3 million total annual budget. Chafee says the station should be looking to those sources, especially fundraising, to make up for the state budget cut, but station officials say underwriting support was sharply down last year, making that prospect doubtful.
“RI PBS” has always been a barebones operation compared to its New England neighbors, with limited broadcast hours and a relatively small staff. A Chafee spokesman specifically pointed to one of those neighboring stations, Boston public broadcaster WGBH, citing its wide availability on cable TV in Rhode Island as a reason why state support of the local station is no longer a necessity.
WSBE has faced funding cuts before; former station head Susan Farmer made a personal appeal to then-Gov. Bruce Sundlun to reverse a 1991 plan to eliminate state support, and the station’s current leaders tell WPRI-TV they plan to appeal to lawmakers to deny Chafee his budget cut.
Translator news from the Merrimack Valley: W275BH (102.9), the Lawrence translator for Costa-Eagle’s WNNW (800 Lawrence), is not only now operating in HD, with special temporary authority from the FCC to operate its digital signal at 10% of the translator’s analog power (25 watts for the digital signal), it even has an HD2 subchannel!
*Blueberry Broadcasting is once again shuffling formats in Bangor, MAINE. Just months after moving Fox Sports WAEI-FM from the big Bangor-licensed 97.1 signal down the coast to the Brewer-licensed 104.7 and sending country “Bear” WBFB to 97.1, we’re hearing there’s another flip on 104.7, which has become classic hits “B 104.7.” That leaves Fox Sports in Bangor as an AM-only format, on WAEI (910).
The new “B 104.7″ is announcing new calls of WBAK, which suggests that it’s being set up as a near-clone of Blueberry’s successful WABK (104.3 Gardiner) in the Augusta-Waterville market.
*In northeast PENNSYLVANIA, former station owner Doug Lane could be eligible for parole in as little as three years after striking a deal with prosecutors to end his appeals of his 2005 conviction for child sexual assault. Lane lost his station licenses, including WWDL (104.9 Scranton, now WWRR) and WICK (1400 Scranton), after being convicted; he was sentenced to at least 14 years in prison but had that sentence reduced to a minimum of eight years after reaching the deal.
Up in Erie, the FM translator for Cumulus’ all-sports WRIE (1260) has a new frequency: W285AI is being displaced from 104.9 by the impending move of WRKT (100.9 North East) to that frequency, and now the translator has applied for a license to cover its move to 104.3, where it’s running 173 watts from the tower behind the WICU-TV/WSEE-TV studios on State Street, just south of downtown. Meanwhile, PBRTV.com’s Tom Lavery reports Cumulus has turned on the digital signal at WXKC (99.9 Erie), making “Classy 100″ the first HD station in town, running only the HD-1 main channel.
Five Years Ago: February 4, 2008 –
A surprise format change in New York – at 4 PM Tuesday, Emmis pulled the plug on smooth jazz WQCD (101.9), relegating “CD101.9” to the station’s HD2 channel (which wasn’t even on the air at launch time) and replacing it with a classic rock-leaning AAA format (they’re calling it “adult rock”), as “101.9 RXP, The NY Rock Experience.” New calls are WRXP, and there’s at least the start of a new staff – Brian Schrock is shown as music director and afternoon host on the station’s new website, while Blake Lawrence remains on board as PD.
*It’s been a popular parlor game in eastern MASSACHUSETTS radio circles for more than a decade now – when will Greater Media flip formats on its perennially ratings-challenged AAA station, WBOS (92.9 Brookline) – and to what?
If you had “February 1, 2008, at 5 PM” in the pool, and “classic alternative” as the new format, congratulations – you’ve just won something. If, on the other hand, you had “WBOS disc jockey” after your name, the news isn’t so good. The newly-renamed “Radio 92.9” has parted with its entire airstaff, with no plans to replace them any time soon.
Off the air completely are afternoon jock John Laurenti (late of WHJY in Providence), night guy Dominick Lewis and overnight voice Paul Jarvis, as well as the station’s weekenders, including Holly Harris and her Sunday night blues show. Morning host George Knight is gone from that shift, but his Sunday morning show remains in place. And middayer Dana Marshall is off the air, but she drops “interim” from her PD title and continues programming the new station.
So what’s this “classic alternative” business all about? Our best guess here at NERW is that it’s a play to siphon off some of the older listenership to Boston’s other “alternative” rockers, WBCN (104.1) and WFNX (101.7) – but after years of rumors about more dramatic format changes at 92.9, in particular some very credible reports that the station was on the verge of going sports a few months back, there’s reason to believe that Greater Media didn’t have any long-term plans of sticking with the long-running triple-A format, which had been running in one form or another on WBOS since its 1989 flip from country.
*Even before WBOS made its surprise Friday flip, we were planning to lead this week’s column with a Boston format change: last Monday morning (Jan. 28), regular listeners to the conservative talk on Salem’s WTTT (1150 Boston), what few there were, awoke to a shock – instead of the lineup that included Bill Bennett, Sean Hannity, Dennis Prager and Hugh Hewitt, WTTT’s 5000-watt signal was running Spanish-language religion as “Radio Luz.”
In just over four years since launching its talk format in November 2003, WTTT never achieved significant visibility or ratings in the crowded Boston talk arena, despite several stabs at local talk and the addition of WBZ castoff Paul Harvey. “Radio Luz” enters a fairly crowded field, too, with Spanish-language religious programming already airing in the market on WESX (1230 Salem)/WJDA (1300 Quincy), but the leased-time programming will at least provide some steady revenue to bolster Salem’s bigger signals in town, religious WEZE (590 Boston) and WROL (950 Boston).
*Speaking of out-of-state religious broadcasters, California’s EMF Broadcasting is getting its first toehold in NEW HAMPSHIRE, with a $1 million purchase of WMEX (106.5 Farmington) from veteran New England broadcaster Dennis Jackson.
Jackson tells NERW that the station wasn’t even for sale when the unsolicited offer came in, and he says the station’s oldies format and its staff (including VP/general manager/morning man Gary James) will stay in place until the deal, brokered by Doug Ferber of Star Media Group, closes. The historic WMEX calls will stay with Jackson, for use on another station eventually.
(It’s hard – impossible, really – to begrudge a good broadcaster like Jackson the opportunity to cash out after building a station like WMEX from scratch over many years, but it’s also hard not to think something’s being lost, probably for good, when WMEX’s local morning show and community connections give way to EMF’s “K-Love” format, which will be piped to the Granite State entirely from EMF’s Sacramento studios, with zero local content.)
* It was a big week for program directors in NEW YORK City, with no fewer than four PD chairs changing hands.
Perhaps the biggest of the announcements was at Clear Channel’s WWPR (Power 105.1), where Clear Channel Boston operations manager Cadillac Jack was named the station’s new PD, replacing Helen Little. She heads across Sixth Avenue to fill the midday shift on WLTW (Lite 106.7) left vacant by Valerie Smaldone’s departure – and as Clear Channel continues to shave budgets in any way possible, Cadillac will keep his OM position in Boston, commuting back and forth between the markets.
Downtown at Emmis, WQHT (Hot 97.1) PD Ebro Darden increases his workload as well, taking the PD reins at sister station WRKS (Kiss 98.7) formerly held by Toya Beasley.
Over at the competition – Inner City Broadcasting’s WBLS (107.5), PD Vinny Brown is out after more than a decade with the station, with no replacement yet named.
After numerous delays, New York’s newest radio station is getting closer to its debut. “Pulse 87.7,” which is actually the audio signal of low-power TV station WNYZ-LP (Channel 6), is now promising a debut within the next week or so, and it’s named a PD. Consultant Joel Salkowitz, who’s programmed WQHT (Hot 97.1) and WTJM (Jammin’ 105.1), will head up the programming at the signal. There’s been no announcement of any jocks beyond morning team Star and Buc Wild.
Back at Clear Channel, move-in day is approaching at the new cluster studios at 32 Avenue of the Americas, just south of Canal Street, that will eventually house all five of the group’s New York City stations.
First to make the move to Lower Manhattan will be WAXQ (Q104.3), which has been camped out at the WWPR studios since the lease ran out on its own Midtown studios a couple of months ago. Q has already been doing some overnight broadcasting from the new studios, and the official move will take place this week if all goes well, with the other four stations (WLTW, WWPR, WHTZ and WKTU) to follow over the next few months.
*Moving upstate, Frank Truatt’s WTBQ (1110 Warwick) has finally found a way to overcome one of its biggest obstacles – a 500-watt, daytime-only signal that leaves the station off the air during drivetime for much of the winter. Bud Williamson’s Digital Radio Broadcasting, which owns translator W256BD (99.1 Warwick), has been granted Special Temporary Authority to put WTBQ’s programming on the 10-watt 99.1 signal, 24 hours a day.
(As we’ve reported previously here in NERW, the FCC is close to approving a rulemaking that will allow AM stations to use FM translators on a routine basis; in the meantime, it’s approving many of these STA arrangements, and we hear at least two of them are pending in western New York as well.)
There’s a format change coming a week from today in Rochester, as Crawford Broadcasting prepares to migrate the standards/oldies “Legends” format from WLGZ (990 Rochester) to sister station WRCI (102.7 Webster), which currently broadcasts contemporary Christian as “the Light.” That’s a very crowded niche right now, with competition that includes regional broadcasters Calvary Chapel of the Finger Lakes, Family Life Ministries of Bath and Mars Hill Network from Syracuse, as well as EMF’s national “K-Love” network.
Once the new “Legends 102.7” launches next Monday morning, we’re told 990 will remain as a partial simulcast of the FM signal, breaking away for leased-time programming that already includes the market’s only Spanish-language broadcasts, now heard weekend evenings on the AM side.
Over in the Altoona/Johnstown TV market, there’s a new branding and graphics package in place at Nexstar’s WTAJ (Channel 10), as the station’s longtime red-and-white “10” logo gives way to a yellow-and-blue “WTAJ” with no mention of the channel number. (Or at least that’s what we could glean from WTAJ’s website, which follows the inexplicable Nexstar practice of burying any actual information about the TV station it’s allegedly promoting as deeply as possible – and which kept crashing our browser while we were looking.)
Ten Years Ago: February 3, 2003 –
CONNECTICUT’s longest-running morning team hung up their headphones last week after nearly two decades on the air — and not completely willingly. It’s been no secret for the last year or so that Bruce Barber was looking to leave the “Smith & Barber” morning show on WPLR (99.1 New Haven), but it still came as a surprise to listeners when the show was nowhere to be found last Friday morning.
Station officials say Barber had mentioned several times that he was getting bored with the show; they considered keeping co-host Brian Smith as a solo act, but decided instead to buy out the rest of the duo’s contracts. The decision came as a surprise to Smith, who tells Connecticut media outlets he wasn’t expecting the show to end when it did. The show’s sidekicks, Megan Doll and Billy Winn, will stay on board when WPLR’s new morning show launches later this month. Chaz and AJ come to the Cox rocker from Barnstable’s WRCN (103.9 Riverhead) on Long Island; Chaz is a former night jock at WPLR.
MASSACHUSETTS is home to one of the two stations in America whose call letters are the same as its city of license (WACO in Waco, Texas being the other) — and listeners to WARE (1250) in Ware have something new to enjoy this week. New owner Success Signal Broadcasting (helmed by Marshall Sanft, former owner of WESO in Southbridge) launched an oldies format on WARE Saturday, featuring veteran central Massachusetts jock Fred King in morning drive, a daily “Polka Hour” from 11 to noon (and all morning on Sunday), and an interesting lineup of local talk shows on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Dennis Jackson (of WQQQ/WMEX/WRIP fame) has a hand in this one too; he and programmer Jay “Biggie” Fink are behind the deep, deep oldies format on the 5000-watter, which blankets the territory between Springfield and Worcester. (2013 note: WARE’s oldies format is still going strong, as is another project Dennis had a hand in launching that same week a decade ago, Phil Drumheller’s oldies WIZZ 1520 in Greenfield. Here’s to many more!)
Down to NEW JERSEY we’ll go, next, to find another change of simulcast at Millennium’s cluster in the Atlantic City market. WKXW (101.5 Trenton)’s talk programming moved last year from WBSS (97.3 Millville, now hot AC “Mix” WIXM) to WKXW (1450 Atlantic City, the former WFPG) — and at the same time, the hot AC moved from “Shore” WKOE (106.3 Ocean City) to WIXM. WKOE became CHR “Hot 106.3,” but it didn’t last; as of Saturday, “Hot” is gone and WKOE now carries the simulcast from “New Jersey 101.5.” What of WKXW(AM), then? It’s now doing ESPN radio, still with Harry Hurley’s local morning show.
From PENNSYLVANIA comes word that oldies station WPAM (1450 Pottsville) went dark on Friday. The station had been under a five-year LMA to crosstown WPPA (1360) and WAVT (101.9), but when that expired, there was nobody around to run 1450. We hear it’ll be back under new management, eventually.
Philadelphia’s WURD (900) is being sold as part of the gradual spinoff of Mega Communications’ non-core properties; the kilowatt daytimer (now with 42 watts at night) goes to Levan Communications, which we hear is associated with the former owners of crosstown WHAT (1340). Expect the black-oriented talk that’s been running on a leased-time basis to continue under WURD’s new ownership.
Fifteen Years Ago: February 5, 1998 –
Sinclair Broadcasting is leaving the Burlington-Plattsburgh TV market, just a few months after arriving. You’ll recall that Sinclair is buying the broadcast properties of Heritage Media from Rupert Murdoch. Yesterday, Sinclair said it will sell WPTZ (Channel 5) Plattsburgh-Burlington and WNNE (Channel 31) White River Junction, along with the LMA to WFFF (Channel 44) Burlington, to Sunrise Television for $72 million. Sunrise is the “small-market” television arm of media giant Hicks, Muse, Tate, and Furst. Elsewhere in the region, it owns WKTV (Channel 2) in Utica and WROC (Channel 8) in Rochester. Through its LIN Television arm, Hicks, Muse also owns WTNH (Channel 8) New Haven and WIVB (Channel 4) in Buffalo.
The broadcast scene in VERMONT was a busy one this week even before the WPTZ deal was announced. Up-and-coming rocker WCPV (101.3 Essex NY) is bringing back the “Corm and the Coach” morning show that was dropped last fall by rival WIZN (106.7 Vergennes). The show will replace Don Imus in morning drive on “Champ 101,” with the I-man reportedly moving down the dial to WXPS (96.7 Vergennes). Over at WIZN, station manager Mike Bussiere is reportedly taking over the morning airwaves of “The Wizard.”
In MASSACHUSETTS, Keating Willcox has applied for new facilities for his WNSH (1570) Beverly. The station has been cranking out 125 watts, non-directional, from a rooftop antenna in Hamilton. Now, it wants 500 watts from a four-tower array on the Endicott College campus in Beverly, with different patterns day and night.
A quiet week in NEW YORK…just another TV sale to Lowell Paxson, that’s all. As part of an eight-station buying spree, Paxson’s getting WAUP (Channel 56) in Syracuse for his PaxNet. The unbuilt CP had belonged to Syracuse Minority Television.
In Albany, Mason and Sheehan are back to being FM-only; the simulcast of their WXCR (102.3 Ballston Spa) morning show on WTMM (1300 Rensselaer) has been replaced by One-on-One Sports.
Monica Lewinsky in NERW? Sure enough…there’s a connection. It seems the mother of the World’s Most Famous Intern is marrying the owner of Straus Media Group, which owns WCKL/WCTW Catskill, WHUC/WTHK Hudson, WELV/WTHN Ellenville, and WKIP/WRNQ/WTND Poughkeepsie. And you thought NERW wouldn’t touch that story…