In this week’s issue… Toronto‘s Indie stops Rick-rolling – Allbritton sale to Sinclair affects Harrisburg – WEPN re-adds East End coverage – RIP, Terry Lee
By SCOTT FYBUSH
MANKATO, Minnesota – NERW is on the road this week, so if we’re coming to you with a slightly abbreviated set of headlines on this summertime Monday morning, it’s because your editorial staff of one is out on the byways of the upper Midwest, busily gathering interesting pictures and stories for all sorts of exciting Tower Site of the Week and calendar features yet to come.
We’ll be back to something vaguely resembling normalcy next Monday, but in the meantime…
*For lack of a huge lead story this week (other than the CBS-Time Warner Cable dispute, which pretty much follows the pattern of every such dispute in recent years and will be resolved sooner or later), we’ll kick things off in CANADA, where days upon days of Rick Astley loops ended, mercifully, with Wednesday’s noontime launch of CIND (Indie 88.1).
Owned by Barrie-based Rock 95 Broadcasting, CIND’s launch from its new Liberty Village studios (31R Atlantic Avenue, to be precise) kicked off with the voice of “in-house music guidance counselor” and Toronto radio veteran Alan Cross introducing the station and leading into its first non-Astley song, from Canada’s own Arcade Fire.
There’s still some technical tweaking to be done as CIND works with Industry Canada to complete a power upgrade from 500 watts to 4 kW from the First Canadian Place tower, but the station already has a robust social media following and sounds like it’s filling a serious void on the Toronto dial.
*As Cumulus continues to shuffle its operations in NEW YORK and CONNECTICUT, there’s a big change on the morning airwaves in Fairfield County at AC WEBE (107.9 Westport). Veteran morning man Storm N Norman announced late last week that he was done at WEBE after nearly 40 years on the air, and Cumulus was ready with a replacement for the versatile Norman. The nod went to a former WEBE voice, Robby Bridges, who’d worked there from 2008-2011. Bridges later moved on to the PD chair at WFAS-FM (103.9 Bronxville), which is going through its own changes right now, and has most recently been doing weekends and fill-ins at WPLJ (95.5) in New York. As of today, he’s back at WEBE filling Norman’s big morning shoes and serving as PD, only the third in the three-plus decades WEBE has been on the air.
*ESPN Radio is coming back to Long Island’s East End. From 2008 until 2011, WLIR (107.1 Hampton Bays) simulcast WEPN (1050 New York), extending the rather limited Long Island signal of what was then the English-language ESPN outlet in the city. (It wasn’t much later when ESPN moved its English-language programming from 1050 to FM 98.7.)
When Jarad Broadcasting sold WLIR to new ownership, the ESPN simulcast was replaced by religion on 107.1 and a network of translators extending “Hope Radio” across eastern Long Island. But now WLIR is flipping again: as of today, Livingstone Broadcasting is carrying WEPN-FM’s programming, including Jets games, from noon until midnight daily. It’s part of a new 107.1 format called “Champions Radio” that will also include a new morning show.
New York Public Radio wasted no time when it closed on its purchase of WDFH (90.3 Ossining) from Marc Sophos’ Hudson Valley Community Radio. As soon as the ink had dried on the deal, Sophos’ eclectic music programming on WDFH came to an abrupt end just after 4 PM on Monday, replaced soon afterward by a new simulcast of classical WQXR (105.9 Newark NJ). Under the new calls WQXW, the 90.3 signal is now working on building out its construction permit for 250 watts to better fill in WQXR’s spotty coverage of northern Westchester County.
As for Sophos, he’s not giving up on the dream of community radio for Westchester and vicinity; after selling off the FM signal to WQXR, he tells the Daily Voice website that he’s working on relaunching as a nonprofit media production company that will continue to distribute former WDFH offerings such as “OutCasting,” a show aimed at LGBTQ youth. Sophos is trying to raise $10,000 to match a challenge grant from developer Douglas Durst, a former WDFH listener.
*There’s a change in the news director’s office at WHEC (Channel 10) in Rochester, where Steve Richards has departed after more than three years in that post. (He’s one of the rare news directors who started out as a photographer.) No replacement has been named yet at the NBC affiliate, which has been coping with lots of staff turnover in recent months.
In Buffalo, Family Life Ministries wants a big power increase for its translator W284AP (104.7). That translator now relays Family Life Network outlet WCOU (88.3 Attica), running 19 watts from the Time Warner Cable tower on LaSalle Street north of downtown; its application last week called for an increase to 250 watts (with a directional notch protecting Canadian adjacents CHUM-FM 104.5 Toronto and CJED 105.1 Niagara Falls), still running from the Time Warner tower. As in Rochester, it appears Family Life has struck a deal with Entercom to put FLN programming on a subchannel of a big Entercom FM signal, since W284AP’s upgraded signal is shown as a relay of Entercom’s WTSS (102.5 Buffalo).
Up the road in Lockport, WLNF (90.5 Rapids) is trying again to move to 90.9 and boost power to escape cross-border interference issues from CBLA-FM-1 (90.5 Crystal Beach ON). The Lockport Community Television-owned station had its first 90.9 application dismissed because of potential interference to and from a new 90.7 construction permit in Lancaster, but it’s tweaked the technical details of its application and is asking the FCC to reconsider the dismissal.
In Syracuse, Cram Communications wants to move its 98.1 translator, W251AK, from Nedrow, south of Syracuse, to the western suburb of Camillus. The translator would move to 98.7 but would continue to carry the country programming from WOLF-FM (105.1 Deruyter).
East of Syracuse, the Syracuse Community Radio organization has gone largely dormant; it’s been a few years since we’ve heard their WXXE (90.5 Fenner) on the air while we’ve been driving the Thruway, and the latest “news” item on their website is dated 2010. But SCR founder Danny Danhauser is still active when it comes to the translator window: he’s modified SCR’s 2003 application for a translator on 93.9 in Hinsdale (not the town of Hinsdale in Cattaraugus County but a much smaller dot on the map in Onondaga County) to instead specify 94.1, with a transmitter site in the Syracuse suburb of Fayetteville and WMCR-FM (106.3 Oneida) listed as the primary station. The modification takes the SCR application out of the way of another 93.9 application, Pathway Community Radio (Sinan Mimaroglu)’s proposal for 93.9 at “Elmwood,” relaying WOLF (1490 Syracuse) from a site at Nedrow in the hills south of Syracuse.
Where are they now? Dave Mason started his career in his native Rochester in the late 1960s at WSAY (1370) and went on to a big career in San Diego radio, most recently at border blaster XHPRS (105.7 the Walrus). Now he’s moving just a bit north to the big Los Angeles market, where he’s just been named assistant PD of CBS Radio’s classic hits giant, KRTH (101.1) – congratulations, Dave!
*Just when it seemed Sinclair Broadcasting had become as big as it could get, the Maryland-based broadcaster went on another growth spurt last week, striking a $988 million deal to buy Allbritton Communications’ portfolio of ABC affiliates around the country. In addition to flagship WJLA (Channel 7) in Washington, that includes WHTM (Channel 27) in Harrisburg, PENNSYLVANIA – and that means Sinclair will have to shed the stations right across the street, CBS affiliate WHP-TV (Channel 21) and an LMA of Nexstar’s CW affiliate, WLYH (Channel 15), that it just picked up as part of its recent acquisition of Newport Broadcasting.
“Shed,” in Sinclair’s context, is always something of a loaded term: will Sinclair actually sell WHP-TV and the WLYH LMA to a competitor, or will it do what it’s done in so many other markets and spin that operation to one of its sister companies such as Deercliff or Cunningham, then turn around and do a shared-services agreement to continue operating WHP-TV and WLYH? If it goes that route, the Harrisburg-Lancaster-Lebanon-York market will still have competition in a big way from Hearst’s NBC affiliate, WGAL (Channel 8) and Tribune’s Fox outlet, WPMT (Channel 43), as well as independent WGCB (Channel 49). (There’s also the possibility that Nexstar may pull WLYH out of its LMA with WHP-TV, either pairing the CW affiliate with a different station in the market or operating it themselves; and there’s the chance that the FCC may really put teeth in its review of the ownership limits, forcing companies such as Sinclair to split up some of these joint operations.)
As the translator dial spins: Smith and Fitzgerald’s application for a new WPHD (96.1 South Waverly) relay on 104.7 in Sayre has been modified to eliminate potential interference with Daniel Peltz’ application for 105.1 in Waverly, N.Y., relaying WEBO (1330 Owego); that takes both applications out of the auction pool and should allow both to be granted.
Temple University’s WRTI (90.1 Philadelphia) is gearing up for this fall’s translator auction; it’s converted several of its applications in southeast and central Pennsylvania from noncommercial status to commercial (with Radio One’s WRNB 100.3 Media listed as nominal primary) in order to be able to bid for those channels at auction. The list includes 92.5 in Exton, well within the primary coverage of WXTU (92.5 Philadelphia); it’s likely that application will be substantially modified as it makes its way through the process. (We’ll have a more comprehensive look at the FCC’s latest translator singleton list in next week’s NERW.)
*There’s word that WAVL (910 Apollo) is changing hands, passing from the Evangel Heights Assembly of God to Family Life Broadcasting, which will pair it with its WTYM (1380) in nearby Kittanning. WAVL’s format shifted from talk to oldies last week, apparently in anticipation of the sale.
And we’re very sorry to report the death of Terry Lee Trunzo, known to decades of Pittsburgh radio listeners simply as “Terry Lee.” Lee’s career started at WESA (940) in Charleroi in his late teens, but he made his mark at WMCK (1360 McKeesport), where he became a key part of the station’s airstaff as it transitioned to top-40 WIXZ. Lee also did TV at several Pittsburgh stations, including KDKA-TV (Channel 2), WIIC (Channel 11, now WPXI) and WPGH (Channel 53). He left the market in 1988 to move to Phoenix, but had returned back east when he died July 30 in Ohio. Trunzo was 70.
*In NEW JERSEY, Townsquare Media is paying Ted Schober $195,000 for an FM translator to relay talker WPGG (1450 Atlantic City). As we’ve been reporting in NERW, translator W262CF (100.3) will soon begin operating from WPGG’s tower in Pleasantville.
*One of the most prominent communications programs in MASSACHUSETTS has made a professional hire. George Knight, late of Greater Media’s WBOS (92.9), will move to Emerson College’s WERS (88.9) to become the station’s first non-student morning host. Despite concerns about more professional staffing at what’s long been a premiere outlet for students to learn the business, Emerson says it has no plans to take students off the WERS airwaves; instead, it’s hoping that students working alongside Knight can get more useful experience as they look to enter the business after graduation.
Catching up on some of the last of the 2003 translator window modification applications that were filed before the FCC’s deadline, UMass Amherst’s WFCR (88.5) has applied to shift its application for 103.3 in Lee to 103.5 and to drop another application for 103.5 in Pittsfield; that allows both the Lee 103.3 and Berkshire Broadcasting’s application for 103.3 in Pittsfield to be granted without going to auction. The Pittsfield signal will relay WUPE (100.1 North Adams). As for WFCR’s Pittsfield plans, it still has another pending translator application there, on 97.9, which was itself taken out of MX status when Brian Larson’s Northeast Gospel Broadcasting modified its application for a Pittsfield translator of WNGN (91.9 Argyle NY) to specify 97.3.
*The last original member of a MAINE radio station’s airstaff has signed off. Robin Ivy started on WCYY (94.3 Biddeford) back in 1995, and she’s been holding down the morning slot at the Cumulus modern rocker since 2000, but on Friday she departed the station in preparation for a move to Florida, where she’s reuniting with her ex-husband (and former WCYY jock) Jared Payton. Saying she “failed at divorce” after splitting from Payton last year, Ivy writes in a blog posting that she’ll continue to do her astrology segment, “Robin’s Zodiac Zone” from her new home base in Tampa, where she’ll be working as a yoga instructor.
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: August 6, 2012
*The Albany, NEW YORK television market is only the third-largest in the Empire State – at number 58, it ranks far behind #1 New York City, of course, and also just back of #50 Buffalo. Until now, though, Albany has boasted something Buffalo didn’t have, and neither did lower-ranked Rochester, Syracuse, Binghamton, Elmira, Utica, Watertown or Burlington-Plattsburgh: among all the upstate markets, only Albany could claim four independently-operating local TV newsrooms at each of its “Big Four” network affiliates.With the selloff of Newport Television’s properties, that’s about to change. Newport’s Fox affiliate in Albany, WXXA-TV (Channel 23), wasn’t part of the big chunks of station sales announced a week ago, in which most of Newport’s stations were split up among Nexstar (which got the Syracuse, Watertown, Binghamton and Elmira markets), Cox and Sinclair, which already owns the Albany-market duopoly of WRGB (Channel 6)/WCWN (Channel 45).
Instead, WXXA has now been sold to a new group called Shield Broadcasting, headed by veteran broadcaster Sheldon Galloway. Shield will pay $19.4 million for WXXA, but it won’t operate the station – instead, it plans enter a shared-services agreement under which WXXA will be run by Young Broadcasting’s ABC affiliate, WTEN (Channel 10).
The details of the agreement haven’t yet been announced, but it’s a pretty safe bet that when it takes effect later this year or early in 2013, WXXA’s existing studios on Corporate Circle will be shuttered and its local newsroom will be merged into WTEN’s operation over on Northern Boulevard. Under Newport, WXXA has run an extensive schedule of local newscasts for a medium-market Fox affiliate, programming from 6-8 AM, 5-5:30 PM and 10-11:30 PM. Some of those shows (the 6 AM hour, the 5 PM newscast and the 11 PM newscast) overlap with existing WTEN newscasts and are likely to give way to syndicated fare, while the 7 AM and 10 PM hours will likely continue out of the WTEN newsroom.
WXXA’s sale leaves just one Newport station in the region without a buyer: Rochester’s WHAM-TV (Channel 13) also couldn’t go to Nexstar because the company already owns WROC-TV (Channel 8) and manages Sinclair’s WUHF-TV (Channel 31), and so far it’s still on the market.
*Radio People on the Move: Former Clear Channel ops manager Stephen Giuttari stays in the Hudson Valley as he joins Townsquare Media’s Albany cluster (rock WQBK/WQBJ, sports WTMM, adult hits WQSH, country WGNA and urban HD2/translator “Hot 99.1”), also to serve as operations manager. Down the road at Albany Broadcasting, Crista Leigh is the new news and traffic director for WROW (590) and its sister stations, moving across town from WGDJ (1300), where she was a news reporter/producer. Up north in Glens Falls, Chris O’Neil is the new PD at WFFG (Froggy 107.1), where he moves down US 4 from WJEN (105.3) in Rutland, VERMONT. Jackie Donovan had been programming Froggy; she stays with the company to program WNYQ (101.7).
In Buffalo, radio news veteran Mark Leitner retired from WNED (970) at the end of July, ending a radio career that began way back in 1975 at WIZR (930) over in Johnstown. In 1979, Leitner moved down the Thruway to a much bigger 930, WBEN in Buffalo, where he worked until 2002 as a news anchor and reporter. After a brief detour into teaching, Leitner returned to radio in 2003 as WNED’s local “All Things Considered” host, and that’s where he stayed until last week, when he retired to a new home in Florida.
In Elmira, Steven Mills is the new PD of Pembrook Pines’ WOKN (99.5 Southport), moving east along I-86 from Olean’s Colonial Radio Group, where he served as operations manager.
*And we close our Empire State notes with a remembrance of Al Brady Law, whose career as a DJ and then as a programmer included stops at some of the biggest stations of the 1970s and 1980s.
As “Al Brady,” he was a prominent on-air talent at stations such as New York’s WOR-FM/WXLO, WWDJ and WNBC, and under his full name his time as a program director included stints at Boston’s full-service giant WHDH and then, in 1979, at a transitional point in the history of New York’s WABC. Law was faced with the impossible task of shifting WABC from top-40, an increasingly unsustainable spot for an AM station, to a more full-service approach. That change marked the end of some WABC careers such as Harry Harrison and Chuck Leonard, but it gave some new voices such as Johnny Donovan and Howard Hoffman a spotlight in the waning days of Musicradio.
Law recovered from his stint at WABC with a much more successful run at NBC’s WYNY (97.1), where he served as general manager and eventually as NBC’s vice-president of radio programming. In later years, he worked everywhere from Milwaukee to Houston to Toledo to Birmingham, eventually retiring to New Hampshire, where he died last Monday morning of a brain tumor at age 67.
*Few talk hosts in history have milked the “I hate my employer” schtick longer and harder than MASSACHUSETTS talk veteran Howie Carr – and now he’ll have a few more years of griping about Entercom’s WRKO (680). Last week, Entercom exercised an option on Carr’s contract that will keep him on the AM dial until the end of 2014.
“I’m very disappointed,” Carr told the Boston Herald on Thursday. “I was hoping I’d get parole. But there’s only two years left on my bit and I now know the exact day I’m leaving. I can do this standing on my head.”
Carr’s contract woes with WRKO go back many years now, including an ill-fated attempt to jump ship to Greater Media’s WTKK (96.9) five years ago that somehow ended with not only a new WRKO contract, but a contract that included this two-year additional option. For Entercom, even a disgruntled Carr is better than no Carr at all; while Howie’s audience is aging and shrinking, he’s still the star voice on a station that’s otherwise been struggling badly to develop new talk talent and to keep listeners over on the AM side of the dial even as more and more high-profile content moves to FM.
*The WFNX callsign has a new home, and like WBCN it’s headed to retirement down south. Last week, Alex Langer, owner of WSRO (650 Ashland), requested the WFNX calls for his construction permit on 1120 in Coral Springs, Florida, up at the northwestern corner of the Miami-Fort Lauderdale radio market. The calls became available, of course, when longtime owner Steven Mindich sold his 101.7 license (now WHBA Lynn) to Clear Channel; while Mindich continues to operate “WFNX.com” as a streaming service, only licensed stations can officially hold callsigns. (And on the heels of closing WFNX’s on-air signal, Mindich is also rearranging his Boston print lineup: this fall, the weekly Boston Phoenix will merge with glossy sister magazine Stuff to create a new glossy Phoenix weekly.)
(2013 update: the glossy Phoenix lasted less than a year, and the WFNX calls returned to Massachusetts on Steve Silberberg’s 99.9 in Athol, ex-WXRG.)
*A familiar callsign and format will return to southern NEW JERSEY at the end of August. WFNE (106.3 North Cape May) quietly changed calls to WJSE in June, and now it’s preparing to relaunch the “JSE” modern rock format that lived for many years at 102.7 on the dial in Petersburg (now WWAC 102.7 Atlantic City).
There’s a website up now, as well as a TV ad indicating that the syndicated Bob & Tom morning show will stay in place when the format shifts from classic hits to modern rock around August 31.
*Plans for a new “Franken-FM” at 87.7 on the dial in western PENNSYLVANIA appear to be on hold now that the FCC has made what appears to be a sudden change of direction on those odd facilities that are licensed as Channel 6 low-power TV outlets but operate primarily for the benefit of FM radio listeners who can tune down to their audio carriers just below the bottom of the FM radio dial.
Venture Technologies Group has been at the forefront of the “Franken-FM” movement with signals in Chicago, Los Angeles and San Jose, among others – but a letter from the FCC last week rejected Venture’s attempt to convert Pittsburgh’s WBPA-LP from analog operation on channel 30 to hybrid analog/digital operation on channel 6. Venture told the FCC it intended to use a technology called “Bandwidth Enhancement Technology” developed by transmitter maker Axcera to reduce the WBPA digital TV signal (and that of a channel 6 operation in Lubbock, Texas as well) to occupy less than the full 6 MHz bandwidth, allowing the upper part of the channel to be used for an analog audio signal that would be compatible with FM radios, with an effective radiated power of up to 33% of the digital power, giving WBPA a full kilowatt from its tower in Pittsburgh’s North Hills.
Had it been granted, the application would have allowed WBPA – and presumably other “Franken-FM” signals such as WNYZ-LP in New York – to escape the 2015 deadline that will end Channel 6 analog operations. The FCC’s denial of Venture’s applications makes it look increasingly likely that the deadline will stick, and thus that 2015 will also mark the end of the “Franken-FM” era.
*Radio People on the Move: Gregg Whiteside has been picked as the permanent morning classical host at WRTI (90.1 Philadelphia) and its network of stations across three states. Whiteside, a longtime announcer at New York’s WQXR in its 96.3 days, replaces Dave Conant, who took himself off the air to focus full-time on his general manager duties at WRTI.
In the Pittsburgh market, Jeremy Mulder (known on-air as “Danger Frog”) is the new assistant PD at Keymarket’s country “Froggy” stations (WOGI/WOGG/WOGH), where he continues to do the afternoon shift as well.
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, as laid out at the website that went live over the weekend, 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.)
Where are they now? Former WXRK (K-Rock 92.3) jock Julie Slater is returning to the air in southern California, where she’s the new midday talent at Bonneville’s AAA “Sound” KSWD (100.3 Los Angeles), starting August 11.
We leave the Empire State with two obituaries: 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.
John “JJ” Valliere is leaving WCTY (97.7 Norwich) after two decades; word is that the veteran night host is going to focus on his career as an attorney.
*There’s new management in place at one of Route 81’s stations in PENNSYLVANIA. Even before its foreclosure woes, Route 81 signed an LMA-to-sell deal for WHYL (960 Carlisle), putting the station in the hands of former GM Bruce Collier and WWII (720 Shiremanstown) owner Joe Green, doing business as Trustworthy Radio LLC. They’re now running the station as “Nice 960,” keeping its standards format and morning team of Ben Barber and Sandy Loy in place.
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, N.Y.; 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 24 & 30, 2008
*If at first you don’t succeed…shuffle your anchors around and try again. That seems to be the philosophy at 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…
*It’s been a while since we’ve had a RHODE ISLAND story, but this week’s NERW begins with 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.
*Our NEW YORK news starts with a station sale 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.