In this week’s issue… Sign-on time for Toronto’s new FM – Cutbacks at WFAS-FM – “Mountain” crumbles in Scranton – Why a new Erie FM plans to move – Susan Wornick plans retirement – Translator applicants avoid conflicts
By SCOTT FYBUSH
As NERW readers know, Ryerson University’s CKLN lost its license for the frequency and went silent in 2011 after 28 years on the air. CKLN’s license revocation opened a CRTC free-for-all that saw 22 broadcasters apply for the last significant open spot on the Toronto FM dial. The winner in the scrum turned out to be Barrie’s Rock 95 Broadcasting, which is now just days away from launching its new signal as CIND, “Indie 88.1.”
After several months of streaming a preview version of “Indie,” the CIND on-air signal went live in test form late last week with a real-life “Rickroll,” playing a nonstop loop of Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up” ahead of its planned official launch on Wednesday at noon.
When “Indie” launches for real, its staff will include PD Adam Thompson, former CBC Radio 3 host Raina Douris as music director, and Canadian rock radio legend Alan Cross as “music guidance counselor.” CIND launches with just 500 watts from the roof of First Canadian Place, the old CKLN transmitter site, but it has a pending application to boost its power to 4000 watts DA from there.
*In Montreal, Steve Faguy alerts us to a pending technical change for a yet-to-debut new AM station. Evanov’s CHRF (Radio Fierté) was to have taken over the 990 frequency last occupied by Bell’s CKGM before its move down the dial to 690. That 990 facility was compromised from the day CKGM moved there in the early 1990s; in order to protect other stations on the same frequency in Winnipeg, Newfoundland, Philadelphia and Rochester, the 50,000-watt 990 night pattern from the transmitter site in Mercier is a tight cardioid that misses much of the English-speaking western end of the Montreal market.
So Evanov now wants to shift 990 back to the previous CKGM frequency, 980. On that channel, CHRF would run only 10,000 watts at night – but with co-channel CBV in Quebec City having left 980 for the FM dial more than a decade ago, Radio Fierté would be able to use a much broader night pattern that would null the US border (including co-channel 980 stations in Lowell, Mass., Troy, N.Y. and Washington, D.C.) but would spread the signal more widely across the entire Montreal market.
Evanov officials tell Faguy: “The 0.5mV/m contour of the current 990 signal includes 4.25 million people during the day and 3.3 million overnight. With the proposed 980 signal, that increases to 5.5 million during the day and 4.5 million at night, an increase of 30% and 36% respectively.” (NERW notes that the real-world reach of 980 would be considerably lower, since incoming nighttime interference limits usable night service to a smaller area within a much higher signal contour; even so, 980 would be a definite improvement over 990.)
Radio Fierté is asking the CRTC for an extra year to build the station, whether or not the shift from 990 to 980 is granted; that extra time, Evanov says, would allow for the station to launch in a healthier financial climate. If the request is granted, CHRF would have until November 2014 to sign on.
In Saint Quentin, New Brunswick, the CBC is applying to convert another Radio-Canada low-power AM relay to FM. CBAF-21 (1230) would move to 91.1, running 50 watts/8.5 meters. It would continue to relay CBAF (88.5) from Moncton.
*Just north of NEW YORK City, Cumulus made a big cutback at WFAS-FM (103.9 Bronxville) as the station’s future in Westchester County continues to be in doubt.
Morning host Jay Michaels, a longtime fixture at the station, was abruptly cut loose on Thursday, leaving only middayer Jolana Smith and afternoon jock Hartman as the remaining airstaff on the station.
With Michaels (a veteran of New York’s old WYNY as well as WFAS-FM) now gone, there’s renewed speculation about Cumulus’ long-delayed plans to relocate the 103.9 transmitter from Greensburgh to the Bronx. With no replacement named for Michaels in morning drive, how long will 103.9 stay at its current Westchester home?
Meanwhile, Sunday night brought Cumulus back into the headlines for another reason: Politico is reporting that negotiations have broken down to keep Premiere Radio Networks’ talkers – most notably, of course, Rush Limbaugh – on Cumulus’ big talk stations. That includes New York’s WABC (770), Limbaugh’s erstwhile flagship, and it means you’ll be hearing a lot between now and year’s end about the future of the talk format at WABC, which depends heavily on Limbaugh and Sean Hannity for much of its audience. It’s widely assumed that Limbaugh’s show will move down the dial to Clear Channel’s WOR (710) in January if the deal with Cumulus is really over.
*Paul “Cubby” Bryant has added another big market for the morning show he does at New York’s WKTU (103.5 Lake Success). In addition to being heard in Miami on Clear Channel sister station WMIA (93.9), his show has added WLIT (My 93.9) in Chicago, effective last Monday.
As the FCC tries to clear out the last remaining applications from its 2003 translator window in advance of October’s big LPFM window, we’re seeing even more applicants do everything they can do to avoid ending up in a mutually-exclusive group of proposals that will go to auction.
In the Empire State, those negotiations will apparently yield still more translators in the Ithaca market: Robert Lynch’s application for 102.3 in Lansing has been modified to 102.1 (with WOKN 99.5 from Elmira now specified as the primary station), while Calvary Chapel of the Finger Lakes moves its proposed East Ithaca relay of WZXV (99.7 Palmyra) from 102.3 to 102.5.
If past history is any indication, expect Calvary to sell its translator once it’s on the air; its last two Ithaca translator grants have ended up in Saga’s hands as part of that group’s ever-growing cluster of HD-subchannel-fed translators. But Saga’s no longer alone in that game: on July 18, Finger Lakes Radio Group (aka ROI Broadcasting) launched “Classic Hits 107.7” on W299BI (107.7 Ithaca).
The new translator is fed by the HD3 of sister station WFIZ (95.5 Odessa), and it’s just part of a growing cluster of Radio Group signals in the market. Updating our story from last week, WFIZ’s main “Z95.5” format is now also being heard on W235BR (94.9) in downtown Ithaca, a translator originally pegged as a relay of WNYR (98.5 Waterloo) at the other end of Seneca Lake. That translator is one of two that ROI is acquiring from Dave Mance’s FMX Broadcasting: it’s paying $5,000 each for W235BR and another FMX translator, W242AB (96.3 Ithaca). The 96.3 signal has been relaying the Radio Group’s WLLW (99.3 Seneca Falls), and it’s still carrying that “Wall” programming, but now via WFIZ’s HD2. Could that evolve into a separate program stream, too?
Back to the negotiating table: last week’s filings also included resolutions of MX conflicts on Long Island, where SUNY Stony Brook’s application for a WUSB (90.1) relay on 107.1 has been shifted to 107.3, taking it out of the way of Juan Alberto Ayala’s application for 107.1 in Hauppauge, relaying WPAT-FM (93.1 Paterson NJ).
North of Albany, a four-way MX situation around Saratoga Springs appears to have been resolved: EMF Broadcasting’s application for 93.1 will stay on 93.1, while Northeast Gospel Radio (WNGN 91.9 Argyle) hangs on to its 1-watt application for 93.3 in Easton – but North Country Public Radio modifies its application for 93.3 in Saratoga Springs to instead specify 92.7.
And way up north, North Country Public Radio has modified its application for a Westport translator (relaying WXLG North Creek) to specify 95.1 instead of 105.7, pulling it out of the way of Timothy Little’s application for 105.7 in Wadhams, relaying WRMC 91.1 Middlebury VT; meanwhile, Mars Hill Broadcasting modifies its application for 98.3 in Saranac Lake (relaying WMHQ 90.1 Malone) to instead specify 98.9, breaking the MX with Northeast Gospel’s application for 98.1 in Saranac Lake, which slides to 97.7.
Kevin McCullough is returning to New York’s WMCA (570); the syndicated religious host is launching a local 3-4 PM weekday hour on the Salem Media station, starting August 5.
Out on Long Island’s East End, the sale contract for unbuilt WEEW (89.1 Westhampton) has been filed with the FCC, and we can now tell you that Barbara Barri’s ill-fated Hamptons Community Radio Corp. is transferring the CP to James Pierce’s Lindenhurst-based Eastern Tower Corp. for no consideration. The CP expires August 24, so Pierce doesn’t have much time to complete construction.
*Where are they now? Dana Whitehead managed WXXI-FM (91.5 Rochester) before moving on to KUT in Austin, and he’s now signed on as the new general manager at WSCL/WSDL, based at Maryland’s Salisbury State University.
*There may soon be a second FM signal straddling the PENNSYLVANIA-New York border. Earlier this year, Jeff Warshaw’s Connoisseur group paid $167,000 at auction for the construction permit for a new class A signal at 95.9 in Erie. At the time, the bid engendered some curiosity: with a cluster that already includes two AMs and four FMs in the Erie market (WTWF 93.9, WXBB 94.7, WRKT 100.9 and WRTS 103.7), a fifth FM would have put Connoisseur over the market cap.
Now we know how Connoisseur plans to get around that limit: it’s applying to modify the 95.9 construction permit to specify Mina, New York as the city of license. Along the state line in Chautauqua County, Mina is outside the boundaries of the Erie radio market – and it’s already home to the tower of Connoisseur’s WRKT, licensed to nearby North East, PA. WRKT holds a construction permit to move to 104.9 from the WRTS site much closer to Erie; the new 95.9, if it indeed signs on from the existing WRKT tower, would reach only the east side of Erie, and at that it would still be subject to plenty of incoming interference from co-channel CFPL-FM in London, Ontario. (There’s also WXNM-LP on 95.9 in Erie, which could file a displacement application once the new 95.9 signs on.)
So why would Connoisseur have bothered going to auction for a signal that will have barely 12,000 people in its city-grade contour? It’s all about the competition: Warshaw was bidding against Rick Rambaldo, the former owner of the Connoisseur stations. He’s begun building his own radio group in Erie, starting with new WEHP (92.7) last year – and even if Connoisseur couldn’t keep 95.9 in Erie, its winning bid at least kept it out of Rambaldo’s hands.
*Scranton’s biggest TV station is being sold, again. ABC affiliate WNEP (Channel 16) is part of Local TV, LLC’s sale to Tribune – but Tribune isn’t keeping that license, or its former Local sisters in Norfolk, Virginia, WTKR and WGNT. (Which is ironic, since WGNT got its callsign in the first place when it was originally owned by Tribune, but we digress…)
For $27 million, Tribune is spinning WNEP and WTKR/WGNT to a holding company called Dreamcatcher Broadcasting LLC, but as soon as the deal closes, “Tribune has agreed to provide certain services to support Dreamcatcher’s operation of the Assigned Stations subject to the supervision and control of Dreamcatcher.” The Dreamcatcher group is being run by veteran broadcaster Ed Wilson, based in California; Tribune will have first option to acquire the Dreamcatcher stations “under specified circumstances.” NERW suspects those circumstances have to do with Tribune’s pending spinoff of its print properties, including the Daily Press in Newport News, Virginia (in the WTKR/WGNT market area) and the Morning Call in Allentown, at the fringe of WNEP’s coverage. By keeping WNEP and WTKR/WGNT at arm’s length from Tribune for now, the company can avoid any newspaper-TV cross-ownership issues while continuing to effectively operate its new TV properties.
On the radio side, Entercom has confirmed its impending launch of an all-sports format on what’s now WDMT (102.3 Pittston): when CBS Sports Radio programming replaces AAA “The Mountain” on August 5, it will indeed go by “102.3 the Sports Hub,” in at least a small swipe at the Boston rival to Entercom’s WEEI. “The Mountain” will live on in HD-2 form, on a subchannel of WKRZ (98.5
Over at the Shamrock cluster, there’s a callsign change that quietly went down on July 9: now that ESPN outlet WEJL (630 Scranton) is simulcasting on the former WQFM (100.1 Forest City), the FM station has changed calls to WEJL-FM. The WQFM calls, which have a history with Shamrock dating back to their long run in Milwaukee (at what’s now WLDB 93.3), have migrated to the former WBZX (107.1) in Hancock, NY. That signal relays Shamrock’s WEZX (106.9 Scranton) – which is the station that was originally WEJL-FM on 107.1 way back when.
*All that noise about “four layoffs per cluster” at Clear Channel? That overheated prediction hasn’t come to pass, but last week did bring a handful of high-profile talent departures at specific Clear Channel outlets. In Harrisburg, Bob Durgin announced his impending retirement after 24 years holding down the afternoon shift at talker WHP (580). Durgin’s last show will air this Friday, August 2, with a listener party and live broadcast from the Radisson Penn Harris hotel in Camp Hill; no replacement for the shift has been named yet, and the buzz seems to suggest that Clear Channel will plug the syndicated Sean Hannity into a live clearance in Durgin’s 3-6 PM slot.
Lou Schwass has died, ending one of the longest relationships between a broadcaster and a single station anywhere in NERW-land. Schwass started at WWDL (104.9 Scranton) just a few weeks after Doug Lane put the station on the air in 1964, becoming the station’s first full-time employee. From then until his retirement in 1999, Schwass was the night voice on WWDL and was also heard on sister station WICK (1400 Scranton) after Lane purchased the AM outlet in 1978. Schwass continued to work at 104.9 (renamed WWRR after being sold following Lane’s legal problems) and at WICK on a part-time basis until his death last Monday, at age 78.
Why does a noncommercial broadcaster modify its translator application to specify commercial operation? In the case of Scranton’s WVIA (89.9), which is seeking 250 watts on 95.7 in Selinsgrove, it’s a way to edge out another noncommercial applicant. Harrisburg’s WITF (89.5) applied for 96.3 in nearby Sunbury – but by applying to modify its Selinsgrove application to specify commercial WNKZ (103.9 Dushore) as the primary signal, WVIA argues that it can enter its application in the upcoming commercial auction, while WITF’s application should be dropped, since noncommercial applicants can’t take part in an auction. Whatever the means, the end is certainly justified: as it currently stands, it’s hard right now to hang on to a reliable NPR signal while driving the US 15 corridor through the Susquehanna River valley around Selinsgrove.
Moving west, two applicants in a three-way race for 93.9 around Altoona have applied to change frequency. He’s Alive, Inc. wants to move its 93.9 Altoona application (relaying WPCL 97.3 Northern Cambria) to 104.5, but so does Central Pennsylvania Christian Institute, which plans to relay WTLR (89.9 State College). Both applicants were hoping to get off 93.9 to avoid an MX situation with the third applicant there, Mark Frederick’s Duncansville application to relay WMES-LP (107.7 Altoona).
*CSN International is modifying a NEW JERSEY translator application: its original plan for 101.9 in Ocean City, relaying WWFP in Brigantine, has been altered to instead specify 102.3, with a new transmitter site much closer to Atlantic City.
*In MASSACHUSETTS, a veteran member of the WCVB (Channel 5) news team is planning her retirement next year. Susan Wornick has been with channel 5 since 1981, and has been anchoring the midday news since 1989, while also leading the station’s consumer reporting team. Wornick will be inducted into the Massachusetts Broadcasters Hall of Fame this fall, and in March 2014 she’ll leave the station.
The Boston Herald has made it official: next Monday morning (August 5) will bring the official launch of “Boston Herald Radio.” The streaming service will operate from a studio adjoining the paper’s newsroom, and the initial lineup of four three-hour shows will be heavy on veterans of other Boston talk outlets. Jeff Katz, who was the morning man on the former WXKS (Talk 1200), will handle 6-9 AM, followed at 9 by “Morning Meeting” with Jaclyn Cashman and Hillary Chabot. Michael Graham, late of Greater Media’s WTKK (96.9, now WBQT), will be heard from noon-3 PM, followed at 3 by “Sports Town with Jon Meterparel and Jen Royle.”
*In CONNECTICUT, Kim Zachary has returned to WDRC-FM (102.9 Hartford) after almost two decades. Zachary did news on WDRC from 1991-1994 (and was then married to traffic reporter Jim Sharpley); later on, she moved up I-91 to Springfield and a long run co-hosting mornings on WHYN-FM (93.1) with her second husband, Dan Williams. Dan and Kim tried their hands at morning TV last year at Springfield’s WGGB (Channel 40) and had more recently been doing an online show; last week, Zachary joined the WDRC-FM morning show alongside Jerry Kristafer and Mike Stevens.
Over in Norwich, Hall Communications has kept WICH (1310) quite vibrant for an AM station in 2013 – and now it’s preparing to give the station an FM relay. Hall will pay Revival Christian Ministries a whopping $200,000 for translator W283BW (104.5 New London), and there’s already an application pending to move the 250-watt signal to the tower of Hall’s WCTY (97.7 Norwich).
Down the road in Groton, Cumulus’ top-40 WQGN (105.5) is one of a small handful of NERW-land stations affected by the weekend’s saddest news, the death at age 53 of syndicated talk host Kidd Kraddick. The Dallas-based host was also heard on WBHT (97.1 Mountain Top)/WBHD (95.7 Olyphant) in the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Pennsylvania market. Both stations will carry a tribute to Kraddick this morning at 8, featuring the remaining members of the show’s cast; after that, it’s not yet clear what will become of the syndicated show or its affiliate clearances as the show’s producers and its affiliates cope with the shock of Kraddick’s sudden death during a charity event in New Orleans. Kraddick was widely respected in the industry for his charity work, and we join the rest of the radio community in mourning his death.
*Translator news from VERMONT: in Burlington, Steven Silberberg’s Northeast Broadcasting has modified its application for 107.5 to specify WCAT (1390 Burlington) instead of WWMP (103.3 Waterbury) as the primary signal.
In NEW HAMPSHIRE, translator modifications include the elimination of a potential conflict between two applications for 92.7 in the Lakes Region. Concord Broadcasting (Vox Media) has shifted its Laconia application to 92.3, now specifying WZEI (101.5 Meredith) as the parent station;
In MAINE, Bible Broadcasting Network has modified its application for a new translator in 97.1 in Auburn to specify Saga’s WMGX (93.1 Portland) instead of BBN’s own WYFP (91.9 Harpswell) for the primary station. While it’s most likely just a way to set up the translator application to be eligible for auction, we also note that WMGX is now carrying Saga news-talker WGAN (560 Portland) on its HD2 – and knowing Saga’s appetite for HD-fed translators to extend its format offerings, we wouldn’t be at all surprised to see the Michigan-based group buying more translators in the Portland market to accompany the signal that’s slated to soon be relaying WBAE (1490 Portland) on FM. Saga is buying that signal, W277AM (103.3 Biddeford), from none other than BBN – and we’re hearing that it, too, may actually end up as a WGAN relay.
Up in Orono, Salt Pond Community Broadcasting (WERU 89.9 Blue Hill) has modified its application for a translator at 98.9 to specify WNZS (1340 Veazie) as the primary station, but that’s just a procedural matter: by going “commercial,” the application can become eligible for auction, and because a mutually-exclusive application for 98.7 in Holden from Bangor’s WHCF (88.5) didn’t apply for commercial status, WERU says the WHCF application should be dismissed and the WERU application for 98.9 should be granted.
It’s July – do you know where your Tower Site Calendar is? If you don’t, why not? If you haven’t bought it yet, what are you waiting for? They’re 50% off the regular price and will be for the rest of this year, so get yours today! The months may have passed, but the pictures are timeless! (They make great posters, too.)
And watch this space in the next few weeks as we begin pre-orders of the all-new Tower Site Calendar 2014, which is now in production!
Who’ll be featured in the next edition of the world’s most popular radio tower calendar? Stay tuned…
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: July 30, 2012
*In a year that’s been full of natural disasters from coast to coast, the tornado that cut through Elmira, NEW YORK on Thursday didn’t get much national attention. But the 110-mph, EF-1 twister took a damaging course for the city’s broadcasters, knocking out power to the Hawley Hill TV/FM site on Elmira’s west side and then partially toppling a tower just south of downtown.
The storm’s immediate aftermath Thursday evening found power out in much of the city and most of Elmira’s radio and TV dial dark as a result.
NBC affiliate WETM (Channel 18) was especially hard-hit, losing both power to its transmitter on Hawley Hill and the fiber connection to its hubbed master control at WSYR-TV (Channel 9) in Syracuse. WETM was back on Time Warner Cable screens late Friday, but it wasn’t until Saturday that the over-the-air service (which also feeds satellite viewers and outlying cable systems) was fully restored – and in the meantime, it was ABC/CBS affiliate WENY-TV (Channel 36) providing coverage of the storm to viewers lucky enough to have power.
On the radio, most of the FM dial, including WENY-FM (92.7) on South Hill and WLVY (94.3)/WOKN (99.5) on East Hill, was also off the air Thursday night in the absence of generator power, returning on Friday as power was restored. Pembrook Pines’ WELM (1410)/WEHH (1600) remained on the air from their Lake Avenue studio/transmitter facility just north of the storm’s path.
But the worst damage came just south of downtown on Milton Street, where the city’s oldest AM tower, home to WENY (1230), did not survive the tornado’s fury.
The storm bent the top of the 430-foot self-supporting tower, damaging it beyond repair and taking the 1230 signal off the air indefinitely.
It also ended a long chapter in Elmira’s radio history, dating back to the early 1920s when the Elmira Star-Gazette (the first paper in the Gannett chain) partnered with Cornell University in Ithaca, 35 miles away, to put WESG radio on the air.As a 1000-watt daytimer, WESG was licensed to Elmira, owned by Cornell, leased to the Star-Gazette and operated from studios in both Elmira and Ithaca in what must have been a most unusual arrangement for the time.
It wasn’t long afterward when the newspaper and the university went their separate ways: Cornell kept the 850 facility (moved to 870 in 1941) for what became WHCU, while the Star-Gazette won a new full-time license on 1200 (soon moved to 123o) under the WENY callsign. It was right about then – 1939 – that the Milton Street tower went up to serve WENY, and it had been there ever since, becoming a landmark for drivers along nearby Route 17.
Now owned by Sound Communications, WENY plans to replace this tower as soon as it can work out the insurance details; it’s not yet clear whether the new tower will be another self-supporter or a guyed tower, or whether it will be as tall as the now-damaged 1939 tower was. We’ll keep you posted…
(2013 update: A year later, the damaged tower remains in place, complete with dangling upper section. WENY continues to broadcast from the site.)
*The week’s other big development from upstate New York was up in Utica, where what initially appeared to be an LMA of Roser Communications Network’s two AM signals instead has turned into a sale. CNYRadio.com reports former WKTV (Channel 2) executives Tom Coyne and Frank Abbadessa will pay Roser $350,000 for WUSP (1550 Utica, formerly WUTQ) and WRCK (1480 Remsen, returning to its WADR calls while Roser keeps “WRCK”), along with FM translator W238CA (95.5). Roser moved his soft AC/talk “WUTQ” format from the AM/translator combo to what’s now WUTQ-FM (100.7 Utica) earlier this year, and Abbadessa and Coyne’s “Good Guys Broadcasting Corporation” is already running the AMs and 95.5 under an LMA, programming a mix of sports and leased time.
*In Owego, Dave Radigan had plenty to celebrate last Friday: his WEBO (133o) marked both its 55th anniversary on the air and the grand re-opening of its downtown studios after last year’s flood forced Radigan and his staff out of their storefront studio across the street. The flood came less than five years after Radigan had bought the station and built the new studios (and a new transmitter site, plus a new FM translator at 107.9), and it’s a tribute to his dedication to the Owego community that he’s put everything back together so quickly.
*In eastern MASSACHUSETTS, Clear Channel dominated the news at the start of the week as we – and everyone else – waited for the launch of “101.7 the Harbor,” the new WHBA (101.7 Lynn). Clear Channel’s $14.5 million purchase of the former WFNX evidently took a couple of extra days to close, and so the WFNX webstream kept airing on 101.7 until about 4 o’clock on Tuesday afternoon, when Clear Channel finally took over the facility.
After weeks of intense secrecy about Clear Channel’s plans for 101.7 (pierced only by our discovery of the WHBA calls a week or so ago and Lance Venta’s confirmation a few days later on Radio Insight that the new station would be called “The Harbor”), the reality turned out to be not very surprising at all. When Clear Channel finds a formula that works, it tends to repeat that format around the country – and so the recent launches of adult hits as “the Lake” in Cleveland and Charlotte ended up being pretty good previews of what was coming to Boston.
“Safe” is probably the best description of the new format, which is running jockless and commercial-free for the rest of the summer. It launched with Dierks Bentley’s “5-1-5-0″ followed by the Standells’ “Dirty Water” and Aerosmith’s “Sweet Emotion,” and the music that’s played since then has all been carefully-tested hits from the 1970s through today, interspersed with liners by actor Ken Hudson Campbell.
It’s about as far opposite as it gets from the modern rock that WFNX played, and ‘FNX (now in its online-only incarnation) isn’t holding its tongue about what’s become of its old FM home: in a Facebook post over the weekend, it referred to “the awful nonsense that now resides on 101.7 FM,” and then went on to take a slap at Boston.com’s “RadioBDC” (where many former WFNX staffers are now toiling) as “that New York-owned corporate newspaper’s knockoff station that hasn’t launched yet.”
So what is there to say about “The Harbor”? Not much more, really: it’s clearly designed to fill the hole for “variety hits” that was vacated last fall when Entercom killed off “Mike FM” (WMKK 93.7) in favor of WEEI-FM. If “Mike” never broke any new ground in radio programming, it was at least cheap to run and reportedly quite profitable, and that’s evidently more attractive to Clear Channel than any of the riskier, costlier moves (FM talk, Spanish, and so on) that it might have made.
“The Harbor” probably won’t do as well as “Mike” did, if only because its signal (a class A facility transmitting from downtown Boston, with only limited coverage outside the Route 128 beltway) is more limited than the class B 93.7 facility. Once it settles in somewhere in the middle of the ratings pack, it probably won’t get written about much in this space, because it probably won’t make much in the way of staffing or programming moves. But it will give Clear Channel’s sales team another set of demographics to sell that’s somewhat older and more male than the Kiss 108 (WXKS-FM)/Jam’n (WJMN) top-40 audience and considerably younger and less male than the “Talk 1200″ (WKOX) audience. (And in the process, Clear Channel no doubt hopes to at least pull a bit of audience away from Greater Media’s WROR (105.7) and WMJX (106.7) and CBS Radio’s WBMX (104.1).
*It’s not often that a local radio station buys a national network, but Boston’s WGBH (89.7) is no ordinary local station, and it could be argued that Public Radio International (PRI) is no ordinary national network these days.
On Thursday, WGBH announced it’s acquiring PRI and will continue to run it independently from the network’s Minneapolis headquarters. PRI is probably best known right now as the U.S. distributor of the BBC World Service, but it lost those rights at the beginning of July to rival American Public Media, the Minnesota Public Radio subsidiary that also produces “Marketplace” and “Prairie Home Companion.” (Confusingly, Minnesota Public Radio was also one of PRI’s co-founders back in 1983, when the network was known as American Public Radio.)
PRI’s most prominent products these days include “This American Life”; “The World,” the daily news hour produced by WGBH and the BBC; “The Takeaway,” the New York-based morning show that’s moving to middays this fall; the CBC’s “Q” and “As it Happens” – and “Here and Now,” the midday show that’s produced by WGBH’s big Boston public radio rival, WBUR.
National program production and distribution is nothing new to WGBH – on the television side, of course, it’s one of the biggest sources of material for PBS. For the radio side of WGBH, which is still trying to define itself three years after taking 89.7 to nearly fulltime news and talk, the addition of PRI promises to be a significant shot in the arm: not only will WGBH get first crack at new PRI programming, ahead of WBUR, but WGBH-produced programming will have a natural path toward national distribution. And that, in turn, promises to make WGBH a pretty important player in an era when public radio stations will be looking for new programming as existing favorites (“Car Talk,” for instance) wind down.
*In eastern PENNSYLVANIA, they’re mourning Joe Tamburro, one of those very rare, very lucky radio guys who managed to spend an entire career at one station. For Tamburro, that station was WDAS (1480/105.3), where he broke in way back in 1964 as a sales guy but soon persuaded station managers to put him on the air as a rare white voice playing R&B music.
Dubbed “Butterball” for his girth – and commonly known simply as “Butter” – Tamburro became a WDAS fixture and an institution in the Philadelphia community. Over the decades, “Butter” served on and off as WDAS’s program director and operations manager. In recent years, Tamburro was focused mainly on reviving WDAS (AM), where he presided over a reinvigorated classic R&B format and had been tracking afternoon drive.
Tamburro died on Friday, at age 70.
*This is the week when CANADA‘s national public broadcaster, CBC/Radio-Canada, is shutting down its remaining analog transmitters, including big ones in cities such as London, Kitchener, Sudbury and (in French) Halifax and Charlottetown. And the CBC is not the only public broadcaster shutting down analog service: last week, the CRTC granted applications from Ontario’s provincial broadcasters, TVO and TFO, to eliminate many of their smaller analog transmitters as well. TVO will silence more than 100 low-power signals in small towns, mostly up north, as well as higher-powered analog services in 14 communities including Kingston, Sudbury, North Bay, Timmins and Peterborough (see the whole list here); TFO will go dark in Sudbury, Hawkesbury, Lac Ste-Thérèse and Pembroke.
Five Years Ago: July 28 & August 4, 2008
*It may be licensed to Hackensack, NEW JERSEY, but Salem Communications has big New York City plans for the former WWDJ (970).
After spending the last 24 years under various iterations of a religious format, WWDJ changed calls to WTTT late last week, swapping callsigns with Salem’s AM 1150 in Boston. (More on that in a bit.)
But the WTTT calls, installed in Boston in 2003 when Salem flipped that station to a talk format, aren’t going to be permanent fixtures on the New York dial. Instead, the station – which is in the process of completing its daytime power upgrade from 5,000 to 50,000 watts – will change calls again, possibly as soon as today, to WNYM, becoming “970 the Apple” and flipping to Salem’s in-house lineup of syndicated talk programming.
The new schedule includes Bill Bennett’s “Morning in America,” followed by Mike Gallagher, Dennis Prager, Michael Medved and Hugh Hewitt. Similar formats have failed to draw significant ratings in other big cities for Salem, at stations such as WNTP (990 Philadelphia), WIND (560 Chicago) and KRLA (870 Glendale/Los Angeles). But even if it doesn’t draw much in the way of numbers in New York, clearing the talk lineup in the nation’s number-one market is likely to allow Salem to charge more for national advertising during the shows – and indeed, many have wondered why Salem didn’t pursue such a format flip sooner.
Why the WNYM calls? There’s a history there – when Salem entered the New York market back in 1981 by purchasing the former WEVD(AM) on 1330, WNYM was the new callsign the company picked. That callsign lasted until 1989, when Salem sold WNYM (which had by then absorbed WPOW, the other half of the old 1330 share-time) and purchased WMCA (570). The former WNYM on 1330 is now WWRV, and continues to transmit from the site in Hackensack shared with 970.
As for that “Apple” nickname, that has a history in New York City, too – a quarter-century ago, it was the new moniker of the former WTFM (103.5 Lake Success), and for a few short years the renamed WAPP had some success as a top-40 outlet and a rocker before going urban as WQHT, “Hot 103.5.” (Today, the 103.5 facility is dancing as WKTU, another venerable New York call, while WQHT prepares to mark its twentieth anniversary on its current frequency, 97.1.)
*Even as the Hackensack station changes its call letters, the total number of religious AM stations in the Garden State will remain constant: Millennium Radio is selling WBUD (1260 Trenton) to the Domestic Church Media Foundation for $2.3 million. Domestic Church, based just across the Delaware River in Fairless Hills, PA, will flip WBUD from its current Fox Sports format, which has been in place only since April, to a religious format once the deal closes. The station is also likely to go non-commercial, we hear.
*Two obituaries from the Empire State: On Long Island, they’re remembering Kevin Jeffries, whose career began at college station WCWP and included stints at commercial stations WHLI, WPAC, WBAB, WRIV, WALK and WLNG. Jeffries also worked for Cablevision as a voiceover announcer. He was 59.
And Sherman Maxwell was known on the air as “Jocko” during a radio career that began way back in 1929, when he began announcing sports on WNJ in Newark. Later heard on Jersey City’s WHOM and New York’s WRNY, Maxwell boasted of being the first black sports announcer in America. While much of his coverage focused on the old Negro League, including a stint as stadium announcer for the Newark Eagles, his career outlasted the league; he remained active on the air as late as 1967. Maxwell died July 16 in West Chester, Pennsylvania, at the age of 100.
*A NEW HAMPSHIRE morning host was abruptly ousted last week. Robert “Woody” Woodland, who’d been hosting the 7-9 shift on WSMN (1590 Nashua), told listeners on July 18 that he’d been fired, and as of Monday, the morning slot was instead home to George Russell, who’d just been hired for 9-11 AM. Woodland had been with WSMN since 2006.
*An historic broadcast facility in CONNECTICUT will soon meet the wrecking ball. “Broadcast House,” part of downtown Hartford’s Constitution Plaza urban revitalization project of the early sixties, has been vacant since WFSB (Channel 3) moved earlier this year.
WFSB is now in new quarters in Rocky Hill, and last week it announced that it had sold the property to Abdul Islam’s AI Engineers, now based in Middletown. AI will pay just $700,000 for the building and land, and Islam says he’ll demolish the 47-year-old Broadcast House, replacing it with a new “tech building,” parts of which AI itself will occupy, leasing out the rest of the space.
*In PENNSYLVANIA’s Lehigh Valley, Rick Michaels and Samantha Layne are back at their old home, morning drive on WODE (99.9 Easton), where they replace Kitty McVay, the surviving half of the Ken and Kitty morning show that broke up in March when Ken Anderson headed for San Francisco’s KBWF. Michaels and Layne had been teamed up at “The Hawk” until last summer, when she moved to Philadelphia’s WBEB and Ken and Kitty (formerly at WCTO 96.1) returned to the market after a three-year stint in Cincinnati. As for McVay, she’s looking for a new radio gig, either in or out of the valley.
Before we leave the Lehigh Valley, we note that Broadcasting & Cable is reporting that the area’s public TV station, WLVT (Channel 39), is raising $53 million to move from its present studio on the Lehigh University campus to a new building to be constructed on the grounds of the Sands Casino and Resort that’s due to open next year. We also note that B&C, once the bible of the broadcasting industry, referred to the station as “WLTV” throughout its report – any copy editors left over there?
*Broadcasters in CANADA are abandoning the AM dial in droves – and now competitors Newcap and Rogers have found a way to swap properties that will allow each of them to get rid of an AM signal, replacing it with an FM.
For Newcap in Halifax, Nova Scotia and for Rogers in Sudbury, Ontario, the CRTC rule limiting a single owner to no more than two FM signals in a market has been a problem. In Sudbury, Rogers has CJRQ (92.7), CJMX (105.3) and CIGM (790), the last remaining AM in the market. In Halifax, Newcap owns CFRQ (104.3), CKUL (96.5) and that market’s last AM, CFDR (780) – and when it purchased CKUL earlier this year, it was unable to carry out its application to move CFDR to FM, which the CRTC had granted in 2007 on the condition that Newcap sell its then-50% interest in CKUL.
So Rogers and Newcap are trading their AMs, giving Newcap a second station in Sudbury, where it owns CHNO (103.9), and giving Rogers a second station to add to its existing news station, CHNI (95.7), in Halifax. Rogers will pay Newcap C$5 million to even out the deal.
And since Rogers and Newcap each own only one FM in Halifax and Sudbury, respectively, there will be no ownership-limit issues with moving both CFDR and CIGM to FM. (CFDR’s application called for 21 kW on 88.9; there’s no word yet on what frequency or power CIGM will seek in Sudbury).
There was another AM-to-FM move in Ontario last week, but CHOK (1070 Sarnia ON) isn’t going silent. Because Blackburn Radio already owns two FM signals in Sarnia, CFGX 99.9 and CHKS 106.3, it can’t flip CHOK completely to FM. It can, however, add an FM booster for in-city coverage, and that’s just what happened last Wednesday (July 23) at 7:10 AM, as CHOK-FM1 signed on at 103.9. The station is now known as “Country 103.9,” and its airstaff remains intact.
The former “Roger, Rick and Marilyn” morning show at Toronto’s CHUM-FM (104.5), more recently “Roger and Marilyn,” is once again at full strength as Darren B. Lamb joins the morning shift; he’d been doing afternoons at CHUM-FM.
Speaking of CHUM, new owner CTVglobemedia is selling the station’s building at 1331 Yonge Street to a developer. Aspen Ridge Homes is paying C$21.5 million for the property, which has been home to CHUM (1050) and CHUM-FM since 1959. There’s no word on where or when the CHUM stations might move – or what might happen to the neon “DIAL 1050” sign that has been part of the landscape on Yonge south of St. Clair for half a century now.
(NERW notes that this will mark the second major studio move stemming from CTV’s purchase of CHUM; the spinoff of former CHUM TV property CityTV to Rogers is forcing that station to move from its own iconic home on Queen Street West after several decades there.)
In Ottawa, they’re mourning two broadcasters who died far too young. CHEZ (106.1) news anchor Cindy Woods-Lunney died July 17 after a long fight with breast cancer; she was 46. And on Friday (July 25), CFGO (Team 1200) lost morning co-host Tim “Buzz” Kilpatrick. He had been in the hospital for about a week after being diagnosed with a lung infection; he was just 41.
Ten Years Ago: July 28 & August 4, 2003
*The news from CANADA this week seems to be the same as the news from Canada last week, and the week before…yet another station has dropped a top-40 format to stake its hopes for higher ratings on the classic hits/hot AC hybrid variously known as “Jack” (the original, developed down on Long Island by Bob “Cadillac Jack Garrett” Perry and friends), “Bob” and “Dave.”
When the CHUM Group does it in places like Ottawa and Brockville, it’s Bob – as listeners to London’s CHST (102.3) discovered Thursday night, when top 40 “Star 102.3” went away and resurfaced as “102.3 Bob FM.” What frontiers still remain for this format? Canada’s #1 market already has it, of course – though there’s an interesting rumo(u)r that CHUM actually contemplated flipping CHUM-FM itself to “104.5 Bob FM” before Rogers beat it to the punch and flipped CISS (92.5) from “Kiss” to “Jack” – but there’s still Montreal and Windsor to conquer. And we’ll be interested to see whether U.S. broadcasters begin taking note of Jack and Bob’s ratings success north of the border and hop on the Bob-wagon.
*Speaking of Toronto, CHIN-1-FM (101.3) is moving spots on the dial. We hear its new 91.9 signal is already being heard in the Etobicoke area; 101.3 will go away soon to make room for the new Canadian Multicultural Rado signal up there. (CHIN-1-FM simulcasts CHIN’s AM 1540 signal, a separate program feed from the big CHIN-FM 100.7 signal.)
*And a launch date has been set for Toronto’s new TV station. “Toronto One” will sign on September 19, promising a program lineup that includes locally-produced entertainment shows, “Monday Night Football,” the Toronto Raptors and Fox’s baseball playoff schedule, the World Series and all. Toronto One will appear for broadcast viewers as CKXT-TV (Channel 52), with a low-power relay on channel 45 in Hamilton. On cable, it’ll show up somewhere below channel 14, though a definite position hasn’t been announced yet.
*The newest radio station in PENNSYLVANIA signed on Friday. WPHD (96.1 South Waverly) is stunting as “Fab 96,” playing nothing but Beatles music for a coverage area that stretches north and east to Elmira, NY; that’s the same stunt that owner Kevin Fitzgerald used to relaunch what’s now “Cozy 104,” WCOZ (103.9 Laporte), a few months back.
*Can you believe it’s 20 years this week since WVNJ-FM (100.3 Newark) sailed (very softly) into the sunset? It was August 1, 1983 when Malrite took over that signal and turned it into a major player in the NEW YORK market – and so we wish a very happy birthday to WHTZ, “Z100,” though we hear there won’t be much in the way of on-air celebration of this anniversary. (Frankly, having just come from a Ringo Starr concert that featured Colin Hay of Men at Work, Sheila E. and John Waite, we’re equally convinced that the audience that loved those tunes on Z100 in 1983 isn’t still listening to the station these days…)
*TV viewers in Utica had two choices last week if they wanted to see local news. This week, they’re down to just one after Clear Channel shut down the news operation at ABC affiliate WUTR (Channel 20), closing the books on a newsroom that’s struggled in second place in the Mohawk Valley ever since the station’s 1970 sign-on. For a little while in the mid-nineties, WUTR almost caught up to dominant NBC affiliate WKTV (Channel 2), but the station’s eventual sale to Ackerley – putting it in the same hands as ABC affiliate WIXT (Channel 9) 45 miles away in Syracuse – put the pieces in place for its eventual demise.
While WUTR got a snappy new graphics package from WIXT, it also lost much of its independence as Ackerley moved the station’s master control and, later, its morning newscast to Syracuse. Weekend news came and went on channel 20, setting in motion a vicious circle that gave WKTV more viewers and WUTR less money to work with. So it was no great surprise on Friday (Aug. 1) when WUTR’s 5 PM newscast failed to appear, and in its place was the WIXT broadcast, with all that news of Oswego and Auburn and Cortland and DeWitt that Utica viewers care so little about. And WIXT’s newscasts are all that WUTR viewers will see now, if they bother to watch. Clear Channel, which bought WUTR and WIXT (and four other upstate stations) from Ackerley, says it will provide additional coverage of Utica-area weather and news on the WIXT/WUTR newscasts – but do WIXT viewers want coverage of New York Mills and Herkimer? (We’d bet not.)
*In RHODE ISLAND, the new owners are touting their plans for WALE (990 Greenville), telling a very gullible Providence Journal-Bulletin reporter some of the tall tales that seem to be endemic to that troubled facility. The ProJo obligingly reported over the weekend that WALE will soon power up to serve an area that will include “Hartford, Worcester and Boston” (does WXCT 990 in the Hartford market know?), and that the calls will change to “WMAX” when the sale closes this fall. (Those calls are already taken, on AM in Bay City MI and on FM down in the Atlanta market.)
Fifteen Years Ago: July 27 & August 3, 1998
*If at first you don’t succeed…shuffle your anchors around and try again. That seems to be the philosophy in MASSACHUSETTS at Boston’s WBZ-TV (Channel 4), where the latest anchor shuffle splits the team of Jack Williams and Liz Walker after almost 20 years together. Here’s how it plays out: Walker will move from co-anchoring the 6 PM newscast to a new hourlong newscast at 5. Williams will anchor the 6 by himself, at least for now (although Virginia Cha is rumored to be joining him there sometime soon), and Joe Shortsleeve gets promoted to co-anchor at 5 and 11. Getting ousted from their evening spots are veteran meteorologist Bruce Schwoegler and anything-but-veteran wrestling-announcer-turned-anchor Sean Mooney. Schwoegler moves to weekends for now, although NERW hears he’s looking at other jobs both on and off the air. Mooney goes to mornings after less than a year as 11PM co-anchor; always-tactful BZ chief Ed Goldman tells the Boston Globe he’s “not going to say we screwed up” by putting Mooney in such a high-profile slot. Ed Carroll, who came to WBZ from Springfield’s WGGB (Channel 40) a few years back, gets the top weather slots at 5, 6, and 11, with Barry Burbank joining Mooney, Suzanne Bates, and Scott Wahle on the morning crew in Carroll’s old spot. At noon, WBZ radio legend Gary LaPierre keeps his TV side gig. NERW’s sorry to see Schwoegler get demoted; as with Williams’ removal from the 11 last year, we don’t see what’s to be gained by taking a well-liked, well-respected broadcast veteran off the air.
*Somebody tell the folks at 5 TV Place they can go home now: This week’s issue of TV Guide has an article about children’s TV, with a mention of the “now-defunct WCVB” in Boston. (Well, it must be — after all, WHDH-TV is alive and well, right?)
*In NEW YORK, the morning team of Mason and Sheehan will soon be history in the Albany market. After moving from WPYX (106.5) to WXCR (102.3 Ballston Spa) last year, the duo apparently failed to provide the ratings boost that the newer rock station hoped for, so WXCR is buying out their contract effective August 31. Across town at WFLY…was the Hillary Clinton banner stunt we told you about last week actually done with the full knowledge of station management? And was the one-day “suspension” of the jocks involved actually a planned publicity stunt? That’s what we’re hearing, and we’re not surprised. And, hey, it landed WFLY a mention in Time magazine this week…
*In the Albany market, funky little AAA WXLE (104.5 Mechanicsville) passes from Foley Broadcasting to the decidedly un-funky folks at Capstar, with a reported $2.6 million going the other way. It joins the former SFX Albany group — WTRY (980 Troy/98.3 Rotterdam), WPYX (106.5 Albany), and WGNA (1460/107.7 Albany) under the umbrella of the Hicks, Muse folks from Texas. Staying in the Capital District for a moment, we note a series of changes at Brian Larson’s religious stations north of Albany, with WNGX (91.9 Argyle) changing to WNGN and the former WNGN (97.5 Hoosick Falls) taking the WZEC calls in preparation for its future as a simulcast of Auritaur’s WBEC-FM (105.5 Pittsfield MA). W04DA in Troy becomes WNGX-LP, just to keep the calls in the Larson family. And congratulations to veteran Albany broadcaster (and friend of this column) Joe Condon of WROW/WYJB. He’s been nominated for “Medium Market Personality of the Year” in the Marconi awards, and you can guess who NERW’ll be rooting for come October. (Other Empire State Marconi nominees: New York’s WQEW (1560) for Adult Standards Station and WSKQ (97.9) for Spanish Station of the Year.)
*In the Hudson Valley, it looks like WVIP (1310 Mount Kisco) won’t go permanently silent after all. Jonathan Becker’s Suburban Broadcasting, which owns WGCH (1490) just over the Connecticut state line in Greenwich, has agreed to pay the estate of Martin Stone $675,000 for the dark station. You’ll recall that WVIP was silenced last fall by a fire that destroyed its studio.
*What’s the callsign, Lowell?: There’s still a lot of confusion over the call letters of the future PaxNet stations upstate. Batavia’s (or, if you’re PaxNet, “Buffalo/Rochester’s”) WAQF (Channel 51) is still listed as such in the FCC database, but on the website at http://www.pax.net it becomes WUPX (which should just thrill the Fox folks at WUTV Buffalo and WUHF Rochester). Syracuse’s Channel 56 appears on the website both under its current WAUP calls and its future identity as WSPX. From what we hear, neither station will be ready for air when PaxNet launches August 15.
*It’s been a while since we’ve had a RHODE ISLAND story, but this week’s NERW features two of ’em: After more than eight years on the air, Mary Ann Sorrentino’s contract with WPRO (630 Providence) isn’t being renewed. Sorrentino was allowed on the air for the first few minutes of her 9-noon shift last Friday to say goodbye to her listeners. Afterward, she held a news conference to express her disappointment with WPRO management, particularly operations manager Ron St. Pierre. Morning host Steve Kass has had an extra hour added to his shift, which now ends at 10, and WPRO is looking for a replacement host for the 10-noon show.
*Down in Newport, WADK (1540) is back on the air after a series of technical mishaps kept it mostly silent for several days. WADK’s transmitter was damaged by lightning in June, and a transformer blew last Friday morning, knocking the station off the air for the weekend. The station was back to normal by Tuesday midday, according to Providence newspaper reports.
*Moving north, we find no news in NEW HAMPSHIRE but plenty in MAINE, where Tryon-Seacoast closed on its purchase of WCME (96.7 Boothbay Harbor), flipping it to a simulcast of Augusta country station WKCG (101.3) at 6 PM Monday. Tryon-Seacoast is itself being bought by Cumulus, but that deal has yet to close.