In this week’s issue… FCC clears the way for two new DTV signals – WSHU launches Fairfield pubcaster – RIP, “Kevin the Afternoon Guy” – Cape simulcast ready for split – Baseball on the Radio 2013: The Major Leagues
By SCOTT FYBUSH
*Does NEW JERSEY need more TV service? We know plenty of Jerseyites who’d say “yes” – but there’s probably not one of them who will end up being satisfied with the FCC ruling last week that will create (at least on paper) a new TV station serving Middletown Township in Monmouth County.
We’ve been following this story here at NERW for almost four years, starting from the day back in June 2009 when the principals behind Press Communications asked the FCC to reallocate KVNV (Channel 3) from Ely, Nevada to Middletown (and, at the same time, to move KJWY channel 2 from Jackson, Wyoming to Wilmington, Delaware.) Here’s how we explained it back then:
When there’s a huge prize to be had – signals over two of the nation’s largest TV markets – there’s no underestimating how far the creativity of a good communications lawyer can go toward finding an unusual way to shoehorn new stations onto the dial.
That’s the long way around to explaining why NEW JERSEY‘s Press Communications quietly bought two tiny TV stations out west – NBC affiliate KJWY (Channel 2) in Jackson, Wyoming and independent KVNV (Channel 3) in Ely, Nevada – and why it’s apparently poised to move those stations right into the heart of the Philadelphia and New York TV markets, respectively.
The loophole that makes those moves possible dates back a quarter of a century, to the mid-80s controversy over the lack of local TV presence in both New Jersey and Delaware. An amendment to the Communications Act of 1933 established a way for states with no commercial VHF stations – a list that included only New Jersey and Delaware – to gain such operations: it provided that any licensee that notified the FCC that it was willing to accept reallocation to a VHF-less state would immediately be granted a license for the moved operation, bypassing just about every other provision of the Act except for spacing requirements.
The provision was very narrowly targeted, aimed entirely at moving New York’s WOR-TV (Channel 9) to Secaucus, N.J., a move owner RKO accepted in order to be allowed to sell the station instead of losing the license as part of the investigation into RKO’s billing practices. But long after channel 9 made the move – and long after it was clear that the “move” didn’t prevent channel 9, now WWOR, from continuing to be a “New York” station, transmitting from Manhattan and serving the entire metro area – the rule stayed on the books, apparently never to be used again.
With the DTV transition looming, though, the lawyers at Fletcher, Heald and Hildreth spotted an opportunity: since WWOR’s digital signal is on channel 38, New Jersey would end up once again bereft of VHF stations. With the channel 2 stations in New York City and Baltimore vacating that spot, and channel 3 in Philadelphia and Hartford going empty as well, there was suddenly spectrum available for VHF allotments in both New Jersey and Delaware…and a law on the books that appeared to give that spectrum to any station willing to make the move, just for the asking.
The FCC, of course, thought it had a way to block KVNV and KJWY (doing business as “PMCM, LLC”) from making their epic cross-country moves: not long after KVNV and KJWY applied, the Commission created two new (and highly unusual) VHF digital allotments on its own for New Jersey and Delaware – and it placed channel 4 in Atlantic City and channel 5 in Seaford specifically to put them far enough away that they couldn’t put their transmitters in New York City or Philadelphia, as PMCM planned for its stations.
Channel 4 went on the air quickly and is now WACP-TV, running a nonstop diet of infomercials, and channel 5 holds a construction permit and is expected on the air soon. But with everything to gain and virtually nothing to lose, PMCM continued to appeal its case. Back in 2009, we told readers that “our reading of Section 331(a) suggests that the Commission would have a hard time saying no” to the move in the end – and not to brag or anything, but we turned out to be right. PMCM went to court seeking vindication of its theory, and in December it won a unanimous ruling from the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, ordering the FCC to approve the KVNV and KJWY moves.
Last week, the FCC took the first step toward complying with the court’s order: it issued a pair of Report and Orders reallocating the Ely and Jackson channels to “Middletown Township” and “Wilmington,” respectively, and directing PMCM to submit applications within 30 days for construction permits for its new facilities.
Those facilities won’t be in New Jersey or Delaware, of course: KVNV’s new allotment coordinates put its new 10 kW signal atop Four Times Square in Manhattan, while KJWY’s new channel 2 facility would be in the Roxborough tower farm in Philadelphia.
So what will become of the new channels 3 and 2, and how will it affect the rest of the TV dial in the region?
For most viewers, the answer will likely be “not at all.” DTV on low-band VHF is a challenge under the best of circumstances – just ask Philadelphia’s WPVI on channel 6 – and down on channels 2 and 3 it’s even worse. The only reliable way to watch low-band VHF is with a big outdoor antenna, and those are in awfully short supply in the heavily-cabled New York and Philadelphia markets. But that’s not what the game is about, of course, any more than it’s really about “serving” Middletown or Wilmington.
No, this is a play for cable carriage, and it’s likely PMCM will be able to put its “new” stations on cable channel 3 in New York and 2 in Philadelphia. Once they’re there, don’t expect much in the way of local news or any sort of local content; instead, we’d bet the stations will look an awful lot like New Jersey’s other new VHF DTV, WACP, with lots of paid content and not much else. And in the longer term, will we see PMCM look to sell these signals to a spectrum speculator? On low-band VHF, their spectrum may not be worth a whole lot, but in the crowded New York and Philadelphia dials, clearing out 2 and 3 might once again provide room for other signals to be displaced in a refarming of the dial. (Because of PMCM’s applications, two low-power digital signals weren’t able to change channels: WBQM-LD in New York had to remain on channel 50 instead of moving to 3, while in Philadelphia, UniMas affiliate WFPA-CA can’t move off channel 28 to 3.)
How much might a new full-power New York City DTV signal be worth? WDVB-CA (Channel 23), a low-power signal licensed to Edison, New Jersey but transmitting from the Empire State Building, just sold for $20 million from Deepak Viswanath to LocusPoint Networks. And in Philadelphia, NBCUniversal’s Telemundo network is paying ZGS Communications $19 million to make WWSI (Channel 62, licensed to Atlantic City) an owned-and-operated station – and a sister to NBC O&O WCAU (Channel 10). By contrast, PMCM spent just $1.2 million to buy KVNV and KJWY and has probably spent rather less than that to make its legal case before the FCC and the Federal courts.
A few more notes before we move on: Because of the way Section 331(a) was written, these “new” allocations aren’t subject to any of the usual requirements that would otherwise affect a new DTV allocation these days. There’s no Section 307(b) showing required – which is why the move could strip Ely of its only local TV service – and no requirement that the new channels be auctioned. No, we don’t know whether the FCC will require the stations to take new “W” callsigns when they move east, though we suspect they’ll do so anyway.
And while you’ll read elsewhere that these are the only cross-country moves of their kind, that’s not quite true. Not only did a few early AM stations make long moves (like KYW, which uprooted from Chicago to Philadelphia in 1934), but more recently, a handful of stations pulled big moves out of the FCC’s last window for major non-commercial FM changes. EMF Broadcasting’s KYAI started out as KMLU in Brownfield, Texas at 90.7 before moving in 2011 to McKee, Kentucky, where it’s now on 89.3, for instance; sister station KVLZ holds a CP to move from 89.9 in Sheridan, Wyoming to 90.3 in Rochester Hills, Michigan.
*To MASSACHUSETTS we go, where the FCC moved swiftly to approve the translator move we told you about last week, clearing the way for Horizon Christian Broadcasting’s W279BQ (103.7 Gloucester) to become the first new licensed FM signal to transmit within Boston city limits since WFNX (101.7, now WEDX) moved to One Financial Center back in 2006. The new 10-watt W279BQ will operate from the “new” John Hancock Tower in the Back Bay, relaying WRYP (90.1 Wellfleet).
A callsign change on the commercial side of the dial: WTKK (96.9 Boston) has flipped to WBQT, which sort of spells “Hot” if you look at it sideways (and more so if you recall that the previous “Hot 97” in Boston was WBOT, a callsign not currently available.) The WTKK calls were quickly snatched up by Clear Channel; it’s not yet clear where they’re going, but there’s no reason to expect they’ll stay in Boston.
*On Cape Cod, Codcomm’s WFRQ (93.5 Harwich Port) has completed its move westward to a new tower site in Dennis, where its new 6 kW/254′ class A signal covers more of the mid-Cape. “Frank FM” is now using only the 93.5 frequency in its on-air identification, which probably means the next shoe in Codcomm’s Cape FM upgrade is about to hit. That’s the move of WHYA (101.1 Mashpee) to a new transmitter site in Hyannis shared with sister station WPXC (102.9). As soon as that’s finished, the long-running 93.5/101.1 simulcast will end – and the speculation is already hot and heavy about what will replace “Frank” on 101.1. (Given the players behind Codcomm and the format holes on Cape radio, our money’s strongly on top-40…)
*In MAINE, they’re mourning the first TV news anchor at WMTW-TV (Channel 8). Charles Tarkinson was part of the inaugural crew at the Poland Spring-based ABC affiliate when it signed on back in 1954, and he stayed with the “Tri-State News” there until moving to WGAN-TV (Channel 13, now WGME) as lead anchor in 1962. Tarkinson also worked in Boston, at WLAW (680), WHDH (850) and WBZ (1030), before taking the WMTW job. Tarkinson died Friday at age 91.
Some EMF changes in the Pine Tree State: WKVZ (102.1 Dexter) has built out its power increase from 23 to 27 kW, slightly boosting its reach into Bangor. Over in Augusta, translator W263AS (100.5 Vassalboro) has moved up the dial to 100.9 and increased power from 1 watt to 19 watts; it’s now relaying WKVF’s “K-Love” service instead of its previous primary, “Air 1” affiliate WARX (93.9 Lewiston).
*In CONNECTICUT, they’re mourning a DJ who died far too young. The name on his birth certificate was Kevin Cleary, but for most of his time at WCCC-FM (106.9 Hartford), and before that at WMRQ (104.1 Waterbury), he was known as “KTAG” – “Kevin the Afternoon Guy.” More recently, he’d been “Kevin the Part-Time Guy,” but he was still a beloved part of the Hartford radio family when he died on Friday at his home in Bristol. A native of Rochester, N.Y., Cleary was just 44 years old.
Up on West Peak, John Fuller’s Red Wolf Broadcasting has put its “La Bomba” Spanish-language service on the air at W258AL (99.5 Clinton), which just completed a ten-mile move up to West Peak in Meriden. From there, it’s now relaying the HD2 of co-located WMRQ (104.1 Waterbury), adding lots of “Bomba” coverage to the existing Red Wolf translators in Bolton and Bridgeport.
On the coast, WSHU-FM (91.1 Fairfield) has launched a new program service aimed specifically at coastal Fairfield County. The new “Fairfield Public Radio” is being heard on WSHU (1260 Westport), WNLK (1350 Norwalk), WSTC (1400 Stamford) and W293AU (106.5 Derby), along with WSHU-FM’s HD2. The new service continues the same news-talk schedule that was already being heard on those stations and on WSUF (89.9 Noyack) across Long Island Sound, but it adds local Fairfield County news inserts to help replace the local service that went away when Cox sold WNLK/WSTC to WSHU a few years back. WSHU says it also intends to find a signal that can reach up to Danbury to complete its Fairfield-specific coverage.
*In RHODE ISLAND, Doug Palmieri returns to WHJY (94.1 Providence) today as night jock and production/imaging director after a stint with Entercom at WVEI-FM (103.7 Westerly). Palmieri replaces Matt Battle, who’s now in Philadelphia doing production at CBS Radio’s WIP-FM (94.1)/WIP (610).
*The big news from PENNSYLVANIA this week was actually pretty small news, power-wise – but plenty of it, with lots of action on the translator front all over the state.
As the FCC continues to work its way through thousands of applications submitted during the “Great Translator Invasion” of 2003, a few lucky applicants are suddenly finding that the proposals they submitted almost a decade ago are ready to be granted. A few hundred applications that had been in the Commission’s deep-freeze all this time are now at the front of the FCC’s processing queue, thanks to a new policy allowing for immediate grants of applications that are outside large markets (where available spectrum for additional LPFM signals is limited) and that don’t have any competing, mutually-exclusive applications.
So far in Pennsylvania, that means a new translator at 104.5 in Du Bois for Priority Communications (WDSN 106.5 Reynoldsville) and one at 104.5 in Jonestown (near Berwick) for Mary Medicus, who plans to use it to relay religious WJSA-FM (96.3 Jersey Shore). Both translators are now progressing through the application process, with construction permits likely to be granted pretty quickly.
(By the way: If you’re a station owner still looking for a translator opportunity, Fybush Media’s consulting services can help you sort through the confusing process to find the signal you’re seeking – drop us a line and we’ll talk!)
Among existing translators, W260BQ (99.9 Clearfield) is applying to move down the dial to 99.3 and to relocate northwest to Brockway. It’s all part of Invisible Allies Ministries’ reshuffling of its “Rev FM” outlets in the area, which will move WRQV (88.1 Ridgway) to 88.5 in Mahaffey, southwest of Clearfield.
Over in the Delaware Valley, Bud Williamson’s Neversink Media has acquired a former Family Radio translator. W247AE (97.3 East Stroudsburg) used to relay the old WKDN-FM (106.9 Camden NJ), but now it’s augmenting the signal of Neversink’s WABT (96.7 Lehman Township). After paying $18,000 for the signal, Williamson has applied to boost the translator’s power from 9 to 250 watts.
*In Pittsburgh, Zak Szabo is the new PD at Steel City Media’s WLTJ (Q 92.9), where he replaces Dan Michaels. Michaels is off to Baltimore’s WZBA; Szabo keeps his afternoon shift for now.
*There’s one fewer TV newsroom now in NEW YORK‘s state capital. Friday’s 10 PM newscast was the last to originate from the Corporate Circle studio of WXXA (Channel 23) as the Fox affiliate completed its operational merger with ABC outlet WTEN (Channel 10). In the months since WTEN began operating WXXA for its new owners, Shield Media, the Fox station cancelled its 5 and 11 PM newscasts and began shedding staffers such as lead anchor Ann Hughes. The Times Union reports Friday’s WXXA newsroom closure meant the elimination of 20 more jobs, including meteorologist Jason Caterina and reporter Steve Flamisch. WXXA’s remaining morning and 10 PM newscasts now come from WTEN’s Northern Boulevard studios, produced mainly by WTEN’s existing staff.
Competitor WRGB (Channel 6) has added a new signal to help replace some of its former analog reach. In addition to its low-band channel 6 signal from the Helderberg Mountains and existing digital replacement translators in Kingston (channel 24) and Glens Falls (channel 39), WRGB has now added a Pittsfield, Mass.-licensed signal on Channel 19 from Potter Mountain in Hancock. It’s the first time in WRGB’s long history that the station has had a Massachusetts relay; WTEN has long had full-power satellite WCDC (Channel 19) atop Mount Greylock, and WNYT (Channel 13) also has a translator there.
*Another high-profile translator is in this week’s news: W292DV (106.3 New York), the ill-fated attempt to squeeze a new signal into the city’s crowded dial, is asking the FCC for permission to resume operation under special temporary authority. This time, licensee Apple 107.1 Inc. wants to go back on the air from the Citibank building in Long Island City, where it would use 4 watts. If W292DV doesn’t go back on the air by May 7, it will lose its license for being silent for a year.
*A Johnstown AM-on-FM translator has changed channels. WIZR (930) has been heard on W243CV (96.5) since 2011, but that previously-open channel got a little crowded when WYVS (96.5 Speculator) went on the air to the north late in 2012. To keep from causing interference to some WYVS listeners, the WIZR translator has now relocated to 102.9, still with 250 watts from the AM tower off Route 30A on the east side of Johnstown.
The FCC’s translator thaw is yielding two more new signals: applications are now on file that should yield new construction permits for Bud Williamson in Cooperstown (10 watts on 105.9, relaying WJIV 101.9 Cherry Valley) and for FMX Broadcasting in Ithaca (10 watts on 94.9, relaying WNYR 98.5 Waterloo).
*Radio folks all over western New York are mourning Burton O. Waterman. “Uncle Burt” had a long career in engineering, largely based around his home in Cassadaga, near Jamestown. That’s where he built WNYP (Channel 26) in the 1960s, and where he worked for many years engineering WKSN (1340) and WHUG (101.7). After retiring, Waterman continued to work with former WKSN/WHUG colleagues Dan and Deb Fischer, building a new storefront studio in Batavia afeter they bought WBTA (1490) there in 2003. That studio on Main Street is now named after Waterman, complete with a plaque in the entryway. Waterman died last Monday (March 18), at age 89.
*In CANADA, the CRTC rejected bids from two stations hoping for relaxation from the rules that restrict the broadcast of “hits” on the FM dial. In Ottawa, Evanov’s CJWL (98.5 the Jewel) told the agency that it needed relief from the “hits” rule to better compete with stronger-signalled FM stations. But the CRTC says “it would be more appropriate to address the application of the hits policy to Ottawa-Gatineau market in the context of a policy review” than to address the policy in an individual application – and it says CJWL is free to “transition to a different format” if it doesn’t think its current soft AC/standards format can succeed.In Halifax, Evanov’s application to reduce Canadian content on CKHZ (Energy 103.5) from 40% to 35% also got a thumbs-down from the CRTC, which said there’s not enough evidence to show that the hefty “CanCon” requirement was a competitive issue for the station.
*John McFadyen has died. The native Scotsman spent many years in the news business in southern Ontario, starting at CKPC in Brantford and then working as news director at CKFM (99.9 Toronto), sister station CFRB (1010) and later at CJEZ (97.3). McFadyen also worked as a news manager at the old CKO all-news network and at TV stations CKWS-TV in Kingston and CHCH-TV in Hamilton. McFadyen died March 17 in Hamilton, at age 73.
*It may be hard to believe from the cruddy weather outside in much of NERW-land, but opening day for most of the region’s major-league teams is just a week away…and that means it’s once again time to begin our annual look at Baseball on the Radio:
For the Boston Red Sox, this rebuilding year is also the beginning of the end of the 10-year radio rights deal with Entercom’s WEEI that made big headlines back in 2006. Entercom bet very heavily on the Sox when it made the deal, and it’s been at best a mixed blessing in the seven seasons since. Yes, there was a championship early on – where’d you go, 2007? – but paying $120 million or so for Sox rights wasn’t enough to save WEEI’s sports dominance against CBS Radio’s “Sports Hub” (WBZ-FM 98.5). Last fall, of course, Entercom shifted WEEI to FM-only in Boston, converting its old home at 850 AM to full-time ESPN Radio and making the 2013 season the first full one in Sox history with an FM-only flagship in the form of WEEI-FM (93.7 Lawrence).
(Nitpickers are welcome to point out those dark days in the 1970s when the Sox were mainly heard in Boston on WWEL-FM 107.9, and they’d be right, but we’d counter that the nominal flagship in that era was Plymouth’s WPLM on both FM and AM.)
In any event, it’s a safe bet that as the Entercom/Sox radio deal rounds the corner into year eight, we’ll be spending a lot more time between now and the last out of the 2015 season speculating heavily about what will happen next. And in the meantime, it’s another year with Joe Castiglione and Dave O’Brien in the WEEI booth and an extensive network of affiliates all over New England. Of note this year along the network is the return of WPKZ (1280 Fitchburg), which had been dropped from the network in what appeared to be the misguided hope that WVEI (1440 Worcester) would reach Fitchburg adequately. In Burlington, Vermont, the Sox shift from longtime home on WJOY (1230) over to WCPV (101.3). There’s also no Fort Myers affiliate this year down in the Sox’ spring training home, though KDEF (1150) is now listed as an affiliate in, of all places, Albuquerque.
On TV, of course, it’s Sox-owned NESN once again, with Don Orsillo and a healthier Jerry Remy back in the booth.
For the New York Yankees, short-term radio deals appear to have become a way of life. Once again this year, the Yankees will make CBS Radio’s WCBS (880 New York) the flagship for one of the more extensive networks in all of baseball. This year, however, the landscape around the Yanks’ radio deal has shifted: while the Bombers play on the AM dial, their NL counterparts in Flushing Meadows will be heard on both AM and FM for the first time in decades. The New York Mets are in another short-term deal, too, but merely by virtue of staying put with CBS sister station WFAN they’ve added WFAN-FM (101.9) to their venerable home on WFAN (660).
It’s a good bet that CBS executives and both teams will be looking closely at the research to see whether the addition of FM helps the Mets this year – and if it does, that should make the stakes even higher for radio deals in 2014 and beyond, especially if ESPN works harder to put its WEPN-FM (98.7) into the mix.
Outside metro New York, it’s pretty much status quo for both teams’ networks: the Yankees continue to enjoy extensive radio coverage on a network that extends well up into New England, out to western New York and out to a handful of affiliates as far afield as Las Vegas; the Mets have a much smaller network with outposts in Glens Falls (WMML 1230), Sidney (WCDO 1490) and Syracuse (WTLA/WSGO and their “ESPN Syracuse” simulcasts.)
In Spanish, the Yankees continue on WADO (1280) while the Mets move to a powerful new home on WEPN (1050), the city’s ESPN Deportes Radio outlet, replacing their previous outlet, WQBU (92.7).
On TV, it’s status quo: Yankees on their own YES Network with a handful of games on WWOR (Channel 9) and several networked local stations upstate; Mets on their own SNY with a handful of games on WPIX (Channel 11) and a similar upstate network.
The Philadelphia Phillies continue to be heard on multiple stations in their home network: CBS Radio’s WPHT (1210) is the official flagship, with most games simulcast on all-sports sister WIP-FM (94.1); WIP’s former AM simulcast at 610 is now carrying full-time CBS Sports Radio and won’t carry any Phillies this year. The big change this summer along the Phils’ network, which extends into central Pennsylvania and Delaware as well, is in southern New Jersey – that’s where WZXL (100.7 Atlantic City) has joined sister stations WMID (1340 Atlantic City), WCMC (1230 Wildwood) and WEZW (93.1 Wildwood Crest) in carrying most games.
The Phils’ Spanish flagship is WTTM (1680 Lindenwold NJ), and TV coverage once again divides among Comcast Sports Network, TCN (The Comcast Network) and a broadcast network helmed by WPHL (Channel 17).
The Pittsburgh Pirates are in their second season with KDKA-FM (93.7 the Fan), flagship of a network that extends into eastern Ohio, West Virginia and Maryland as well as blanketing western Pennsylvania. Root Sports has the TV action, with no broadcast TV games.
The Toronto Blue Jays aren’t going anywhere – the team’s owner, Rogers, also owns its broadcast partners, CJCL (Sportsnet 590 the FAN) and Rogers SportsNet. A handful of TV games are also apparently airing on FX Canada this season; on radio, the network once again extends from coast to coast to include affiliates from the Canadian Maritimes all the way to Vancouver.
Next week, we’ll run down the AAA minor-league radio lineup for the 2013 season…play ball!
*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: March 27, 2012 –
*Barnstable Broadcasting is exiting Long Island with the sale of WHLI (1100 Hempstead), WIGX (94.3 Smithtown), WKJY (98.3 Hempstead) and WBZO (103.1 Bay Shore) to Connoisseur Media. NERW hears the deal was announced at an employee meeting this afternoon. RadioInsight reports the price on the deal is $23 million; we’ll have more in a mid-week update here and on Twitter and Facebook as it develops.
*In eastern MASSACHUSETTS, Jack Williams has been a fixture behind the news desk on WBZ-TV (Channel 4) for as long as many of his viewers have been alive. That’s about to change, though: last week, the CBS owned-and-operated station announced that Williams, 68, is beginning to reduce his workload at the station after 37 years there.
Starting this week, Williams is off the 11 PM newscast, though he’ll continue to anchor at 6 and produce his long-running “Wednesday’s Child” segments.
Jonathan Elias takes over the 11 alongside Lisa Hughes starting tonight.
*On the radio, there’s a new morning show team at Worcester’s WSRS (96.1), where Heidi West has joined Greg Byrne, filling the co-host slot last occupied by Jackie Brush. West had been at WBMW (106.5) in New London, CONNECTICUT, and has also worked at WWLI (105.1) in Providence and at Worcester’s WORC-FM (98.9), as well as at WMAS-FM in Springfield and part-time at Boston’s WMJX (106.7).
Mel Robbins has departed her weekend slot on Greater Media talker WTKK (96.9 Boston); she’s been doing afternoons at Cox’s WDBO (580/96.5) in Orlando, Florida, and now she’s headed down there full-time.
We’ve been remiss in not noting the new tower that’s finally up in the swamps of Quincy, returning WJDA (1300) to full power after the stati0n lost its tower to Hurricane Irene last August.
The station was briefly silent before returning from a longwire antenna at the site, and we’re told it’s now back to its usual kilowatt of power from a Valcom fiberglass whip antenna at its licensed location, though there’s nothing on file with the FCC about an antenna change.
*About that high-powered pirate that was shut down by FCC agents earlier this month? “Hot 97 Boston” tells the Jamaica Star that it was making a “move from Terrestrial Digital Radio back to a Digital Internet Radio platform,” claiming that it was the station’s “tremendous success that led to us lending our amazing brand locally for simulcast on terrestrial radio.” Almost two weeks after the raid, there’s been no sign of a signal on the station’s former 87.7 MHz frequency, and no shortage of listeners on its Facebook page asking what happened.
*From NEW HAMPSHIRE comes somewhat belated word of the death of veteran engineer and broadcast historian Norm Gagnon. Even at a young age, he was fascinated with radio, and a family story tells of the time that a nine-year-old Norm persuaded his parents to buy an early FM receiver.
Gagnon joined Manchester’s WGIR in 1957, left in 1968 to spend some time at Boston’s WEEI, then returned to WGIR as chief engineer in 1970. In 1979, Gagnon went back to Boston to work at WRKO/WROR, then at WHDH/WCOZ and eventually WMJX, where he was the project engineer for the master FM antenna system atop the Prudential Tower.
After retiring from his final job with the MediaTouch automation system in the 1990s, Gagnon went on to share some of his broadcast memories, especially of the early days of FM radio, at the excellent GGN Information Systems website. At least for now, that site remains on the web as a living tribute to Gagnon, who died March 8 at age 73.
*There are two new FM signals on the air in Down East MAINE.
WRMO (93.7 Milbridge) went silent after the death of owner Lyle Evans back in 2010. Evans’ estate sold the station to Chuck Begin’s Pine Tree Broadcasting last year, and now WRMO is back from a new 22.5 kW/669′ class B facility on Martins Ridge, near Franklin, engineered by Washington, DC’s Chris Roth.
It’s now programming gold-based AC as “93.7 the Wave,” reaching Ellsworth and Bar Harbor with a city-grade signal and providing a fringe signal as far away as Bangor.
There’s also a new signal on the air from the Augusta-based Light of Life religious folks: WRNM (91.7 Ellsworth) applied for a license to cover its construction permit last week.
*In PENNSYLVANIA‘s Poconos, Bud Williamson unveiled a new format and nickname at his newly-purchased WTSX (96.7 Lehman Township) on Friday. The new “Pocono 96.7,” which relocated from Port Jervis, New York to clear the way for K-Love’s WKLV-FM (96.7 Port Chester) New York City move-in, is playing the “Greatest Hits of the 60s, 70s and 80s” with a jock lineup that includes John Perry in mornings, John Harper in the afternoons and two former Clear Channel voices, middayer Lou Brown and night guy Rick Knight (Reg Osterhoudt).
Five Years Ago: March 24, 2008 –
*Ask just about any top-40 DJ of a certain generation to list their most respected colleagues, and the name “Jackson Armstrong” is almost sure to pop up somewhere near the top.
Armstrong, whose real name was John Larsh, died Saturday at his North Carolina home, ending a career that found “Your LEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEADER” behind the mic everywhere from Los Angeles (KTNQ, KKHR, KFI) to Boston (WMEX).
Armstrong’s career began at his hometown WCOG in Greensboro, NC in 1964, but he came into his fast-talking persona in Cleveland, where he worked both for WIXY and competitor WKYC.
Armstrong came to Boston in 1968 to work at WMEX, spending most of the next seven years in the northeast at CHUM in Toronto, WKBW in Buffalo (where his three-year stint on the night shift is still fondly remembered by listeners all over the northeast), WPOP in Hartford, WKTQ in Pittsburgh (where he was a key part of 13Q from 1973-75) and even a short stint at KDKA. A few years later, he did one shift on New York’s WNBC as “The Unknown DJ” before heading west to work in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Fresno.
Armstrong returned to the northeast airwaves in 2003 when WKBW (by then known as WWKB) returned to an oldies format, voicetracking first an evening shift and then an afternoon shift from North Carolina until the demise of the oldies on KB in 2006.
In a memorial message, Armstrong’s daughter Devon writes, “If you knew him at all, you’d know he wouldn’t want you to be sad for a moment…he would also want you to help fight to bring back the personality in radio if at all possible. He loved being a DJ almost as much as he loved being a father and that says A LOT.”
Armstrong was 62.
The New Britain-licensed station has actually been owned by NBC twice during its 55 years on the air, first from 1957-1959 (under the WNBC-TV calls) and then again since a 1997 trade with Paramount (which acquired WLWC-TV New Bedford/Providence and WWHO-TV in the Columbus, Ohio market). Under NBC’s ownership, WVIT has been a solid competitor in the spread-out Hartford/New Haven market, consistently hitting at least second place in the local news ratings, with some nice first-place finishes in the February sweeps among 25-54 viewers in the mornings and at 11.
When NBC Universal announced plans to shed many of its smaller-market stations (including Providence’s WJAR), WVIT was conspicuously missing from the list – and indeed, it wasn’t long after the sale of WJAR and other NBC O&Os to Media General that NBC announced plans to build a new high-tech studio facility for WVIT next door to its half-century-old facility on New Britain Avenue in West Hartford.
That new building is currently going up in what had been WVIT’s parking lot, but by the time it’s finished, the station is expected to have a new owner.
That’s because even with all the money it’s spending on WVIT, NBC says it’s focusing its station ownership on the top 10 markets. It owns stations in eight of them, leaving only Detroit and Boston without NBC O&O presence. (In Detroit, NBC has a long association with Post-Newsweek’s powerful WDIV; in Boston, the network has long been rumored to be interested in a deal to buy WHDH from Ed Ansin’s Sunbeam.)
Outside the top 10, NBC will be left with only KNSD in San Diego once it completes the latest round of sales, which also includes WTVJ in Miami.
*In Brunswick, Maine, it’s the end of the line for an old studio/transmitter building. The barnlike structure that was home to the stations on 98.9 and 900, variously WCME, WKXA and WCLZ, for almost half a century came down last week, we’re told. There hadn’t been studios in there for several years, since WCLZ (98.9 North Yarmouth) was swallowed up by first the Portland-based Citadel cluster and then the South Portland-based Saga cluster.
The AM side on 900, which is part of JJ Jeffrey’s “Big Jab” group of sports stations, changed calls last week as well – it had been WJJB and is now WWBK. (The WJJB calls are apparently headed for Westbrook to replace WJAE on the 1440 half of the simulcast.)
In place of the old building, there’s now a small prefab structure housing the transmitters for WCLZ and WJJB.
*There’s a new TV newscast on the air in VERMONT. As we predicted when Fox outlet WFFF (Channel 44) launched a 10 PM newscast last year, the same news team is now producing a broadcast for sister ABC outlet WVNY (Channel 22).
But instead of competing head-on with the Burlington/Plattsburgh market’s two news behemoths, WCAX (Channel 3) and WPTZ (Channel 5), WVNY is running its newscast on weeknights at 7 PM. And it’s branding the show, oddly enough, as “Fox 44 News at 7.”
*A NEW JERSEY format change: Press Communications is replacing oldies with Fox Sports at WBUD (1260 Trenton). When the flip takes effect on March 31, WBUD will run Fox 21 hours a day, with three hours a day of Jim Rome in middays.
*In PENNSYLVANIA, Greater Media is preparing to relaunch its AM sports talker, WPEN (950 Philadelphia). The station has dropped its 6-9 AM show with Glenn Foley and Michael Bradley, replacing it with ESPN Radio’s Mike and Mike. It’s part of an overall rebranding of the station that will take effect April 1, as it picks up the ESPN affiliation and becomes “950 ESPN.”
The rest of the WPEN day will shape up like this: former afternoon host Jody McDonald moves to the 9 AM-1 PM slot, followed by the Mike Tirico show from ESPN and then former WIP/WMMR talker Mike Missanelli from 3-7 PM. Harry Mayes moves from middays to nights, where he’ll do 7-11 PM alongside Dan Schwartzman, who comes to WPEN from former Philly-area ESPN outlet WPHY (920 Trenton).
Across the state in Pittsburgh, Steel City media is making changes at WLTJ (92.9). As of Sunday evening, “Lite Rock 92.9” is no more, and we hear the station has reimaged as “Q 92.9.”
*Eastern CANADA is losing one of its biggest remaining AM signals in just a few weeks. The CBC signed on CBAM (106.1 Moncton) in January, and that set the clock ticking for the end of 50,000-watt, non-directional CBA (1070 Moncton), which has long been a beacon of CBC service not only for much of the Maritimes but for the northeastern U.S. as well.
We’re hearing that CBA will breathe its last on the AM dial early on the morning of April 7, with the final sign-off coming at 8:30 AM ADT (7:30 AM EDT).
Ten Years Ago: March 24, 2003 –
One of the best known broadcast voices in central PENNSYLVANIA came back to the air last Thursday (March 20). Bruce Bond was a fixture in afternoons at WNNK (104.1) until December 2001, when the Cumulus station shifted from CHR to hot AC and let him go. Bond and sidekick “Stretch” quickly found a new home at Citadel’s classic hits WRKZ (102.3 Carlisle) – but Cumulus soon filed suit to enforce Bond’s one-year noncompete agreement, which left Stretch working mornings solo on “Z102.” His absence from the airwaves (and a paycheck) hasn’t been easy for Bond; a note on his brucebond.com Web site asks for donations from listeners to help him pay his bills.
Over in Pottsville, WPAM (1450) has returned to the air after being silent for a short time after its LMA by crosstown WPPA/WAVT ended. The station is now being run under a five-year LMA to Bob Murray (a former WPAM PD); it signed back on March 16 with a day of Bruce Springsteen singing “The Rising,” followed by a day of Irish music; the permanent format at the new “Phoenix 1450” is classic rock.
NEW YORK is seeing some talk schedule changes as well; WABC (770) has pulled George Noory’s “Coast to Coast AM” (the old Art Bell show) and installed Steve Malzberg in the 1-5 AM slot. That gives him four solo hours instead of the two hours he was sharing with Richard Bey from 6-8 PM. (Monica Crowley is filling that seat now.)
Upstate, rumors are swirling about the fate of WNSA (107.7 Wethersfield Township), the Buffalo-market sports station that’s owned by bankrupt Adelphia. WNSA’s afternoon host Howard Simon is now being seen on TV as well, with a 3-6 PM “Simoncast” on sister cable network Empire Sports; that pushes the “Fan TV” talk show back to 7 PM.
Down in RHODE ISLAND, the “O” word is becoming a thing of the past at Clear Channel’s WWBB (101.5 Providence). That’s “O” as in “Oldies” – the music B101 is playing is now going under the moniker “Big Hits of the Sixties and Seventies.” This is a (forgive the pun) “Big” thing these days; we’ve seen similar shifts up the New Hampshire seacoast at WQSO (96.7 Rochester) and over in Utica at what’s now WUCL (93.5 Remsen), and we expect to see more of these “non-Oldies” oldies stations in the months to come.
We’ll have more on this when we get back to home base next week (we’re coming to you from South Carolina at the moment, as we gather new pictures for Tower Site of the Week) – but some local sound is coming back to WWRX (103.7 Westerly). It’s getting detached from the FNX Radio Network up in Boston, with PD Cruze taking over mornings and afternoon guys Storm and Birdsey becoming WWRX-only. Details on the 31st…
Fifteen Years Ago: March 26, 1998 –
There’s a new CHR on Cape Cod. The former WJCO (93.5) in Harwich Port slipped away to an all-Chumbawamba stunt format over the weekend before resurfacing Monday morning as WYST, “Star 93.” Chris Boles is PD for Ernie Boch’s station, which goes up against established CHR WRZE (96.3) Nantucket.
Other news from MASSACHUSETTS: Boston’s WBZ (1030) is making good on its claim of “news all day, every day” next month by dropping its “Sports Saturday” and “Sports Sunday” shows in favor of all news. BZ’s specialty sports shows, “Calling all Sports,” “Upton Bell and Bob Lobel,” and “The McDonoughs on Sports” will continue.
Moving along to RHODE ISLAND, we find two call letter changes this week. In Providence, Portuguese WRCP (1290) will change to WRNI when Boston’s WBUR-FM (90.9) takes over operation of the station this spring. And in West Warwick, the venerable WHIM calls have been pulled from AM 1450 for WDYZ — for Radio Disney, of course. NERW wonders if WDYZ owner Hibernia will be applying for new calls for its WPZE (1260 Boston) and WRDM (1550 Bloomfield CT) as well.
The FCC has paid a visit to a MAINE radio station that was operating without a license. “I 97-3” was visited by an FCC agent last Tuesday night, with a promise of a formal letter from the FCC to follow. In a posting to a pirate radio newsgroup, the station’s owner says he was running just half a watt — and notes that the visit came just a few days after his station was mentioned here in NERW. The station remains on the air, reportedly running just a tenth of a watt for the moment.
In NEW YORK, we bid farewell to one noncommercial station. WOSS (91.1) in Ossining has returned its license to the FCC. No word on why the school-owned station is calling it quits.
Staff changes at several upstate CHR outlets: at Syracuse’s WWHT (107.9), PD Ed Lacomb is out; no replacement has been named yet. In the Utica area, WOWZ (97.9 Whitesboro)/WOWB (105.5 Little Falls), a.k.a. “Wow FM,” is shuffling staff in the wake of the departure of middayer Pam Anderson. Donna Jeffries is taking midday duties temporarily, while part-timer “Kookinbocker” (we don’t make these names up, really!) takes over afternoons under the air name “Rick Devoe.” (Or perhaps that’s “Kehoe” — we’ve heard both versions) And in Rochester, overnighter Magic Man has resigned from WPXY (97.9). “Norm on the Barstool” extends his 10PM shift all the way to 3AM, while former morning sidekick Athena takes on 3 to 5:30 AM, followed by producing duties for Scott Spezzano’s morning show. As for the rumors of a job out of town for ‘PXY PD Clarke Ingram, word at press time is that he’s about to sign a new deal to stay with ARS/CBS and 98PXY.
There are new calls for Binghamton’s soft AC outlet. The former WGRG (101.7 Owego) is now WLTB. NERW’s still waiting to hear the modern rock format on its sister AM station, WEBO (1330).
Rochester’s “Sunny 106” is finally using its new calls on-air — WYSY (106.7 Irondequoit) and WISY (102.3 Canandaigua) replace WMAX-FM and WMHX, respectively. The WMAX-FM calls migrate to the former WRCD (107.3 Honeoye Falls), where they’re still hidden away as “WMAX-FM Honeoye Falls no longer lives…this is Jam’n 107.”
The country trimulcast on 107.1 surrounding New York City (WWXY Briarcliff Manor, WWVY Hampton Bays, and WWZY Long Branch NJ) is adding a fourth player. Big City Radio is buying WRNJ-FM (107.1 Belvidere NJ), which serves the Easton PA market. It’s expected to join the “Y107” simulcast April 1.