In this week’s issue… LPFM permits start rolling – FCC seeks AM comments – Fox seeks bigger DTV signal – Sales scrubbed in western Mass. – CRTC denies Georgian Bay signal boosts
By SCOTT FYBUSH
Three quick programming notes before we launch into this week’s column: first, this issue marks the twentieth anniversary of this little endeavor and the start of our anniversary celebration. You can see the new logo at the top of the page, and you can read the very first NERW at the bottom of the page – and you’ll hear much more about our birthday plans in the weeks to come. Second, we’re about to launch a new and much-improved membership management system under the hood here at Fybush.com. The new system is the next phase in our site upgrade, making it much easier for you to know when your membership is about to expire and how to renew…but it will also require you to log in with a fresh password once we launch it. Watch your email and this space in the next few days for more details! And third, if you don’t yet have your 2014 Tower Site Calendar or you have a membership question, this is the week to do your buying (or your asking). Mrs. NERW’s ongoing health issues will have her out of commission for a few weeks beginning next Monday, and we may be a little slower on order fulfillment in the meantime. Thanks, as always, for your support and your patience – and on with the next twenty years!
*How fast does the FCC move? When it’s not in a mood for quick action, the Commission can be as slow as it gets, as witnessed by the FM translator applicants who waited more than a decade after the FCC’s 2003 window to finally get their signals granted (including a few we’ll discuss later in this week’s column.)
As of this Monday morning, nine lucky LPFM applicants around NERW-land are the first to hold shiny new construction permits out of this window, and it should come as no surprise that they’re largely in rural areas where channels were still available without requiring interference waivers:
In Rumford, Maine, the Rumford River Valley Community Association says it’s even picked a callsign for its new station on 91.1, which will be WMPF-LP and will restore some of the local programming once heard on the old WRUM (790, now WTME 780 and operated out of Lewiston). West of Bangor, Threefold Ministry was granted 96.3 in Hudson, Maine.
In Lisbon, New Hampshire, the Boys and Girls Club of the North Country was granted 89.1, though it’s possible a frequency change may be in the offing due to a conflict with a full-power signal: Barry Lunderville’s WSSH (89.7) filed an application in early January to move to 89.3 and boost power from 130 watts to 5 kW, expanding its reach into Littleton and across the state line into St. Johnsbury, Vermont. The 89.7 app (from WSSH licensee Nostalgia One Public Radio) notes the presence of the 89.1 application – and that the LPFM service is secondary and subject to displacement by a full-power license.
Over in Vermont, Royalton Community Radio has been granted 96.5 in South Royalton.
In New York, Torah Treasure House gets 93.7 in Monticello, while the Citizens Committee for Greenwich Youth now has a CP for 105.1 in Greenwich, near the Vermont border east of Saratoga Springs.
All three of the new CPs in Pennsylvania are in the state’s northern tier, near the New York state line: the Union City Family Support Center won 96.7 in Union City, southeast of Erie, while just to the south in Canadohta Lake, the Canadohta Community Radio Group will operate on 105.7. To the east on US 6, local radio will return to Kane via the Kane Area Radio Association’s new 101.7, which will fill a gap left behind by the departure of the former Kane-licensed 103.9 to the larger Olean, N.Y. market nearby.
In Girardville, Golden Age Communications asked the FCC to allow WQDD-LP, one of the survivors of the original LPFM window, to move from 107.9 to 93.5 to get a cleaner channel. That move was granted last week, but the FCC rejected an application from WLRI-LP (92.9 Gap) for a major site change that would have moved its transmitter a few miles south. That move would have taken 92.9 too close to first-adjacent WPOC (93.1) in Baltimore.
*The FCC has also finally put the pedal to the bureaucratic metal when it comes to wrapping up the last remaining bits of the FM translator window it opened a decade ago. Last week saw the grants of more than a dozen construction permits from applications that were thawed out last year after a long FCC freeze. Here’s what’s coming to the airwaves on that front:
- Ocean City NJ: W272DF (102.3), CSN International (WWFP 90.5 Brigantine)
- Pennsauken NJ (Philadelphia) : W237EH (95.3), Broadcast Learning Center Inc. (WVCH 740 Chester PA)
- Lehigh Township PA: W292EQ (106.3), Beacon Broadcasting Corp. (WJCS 89.3 Allentown)
- Sunbury PA: W229BY (93.7), Four Rivers Community Broadcasting Corp. (WEVW 90.9 Elysburg)
- Stony Brook NY: W297BM (107.3), SUNY (WUSB 90.1 Stony Brook)
- Lansing NY: W273CO (102.5), Robert A. Lynch (WOKN 99.5 Southport)
- Marathon NY: W266CL (101.1), SUNY (WRVO 89.9 Oswego)
- Dryden NY: W224CU (92.7), SUNY (WRVO 89.9 Oswego)
- Horseheads NY: W299BV (107.7), Fitzgerald and Hawras, Partnership (WPHD 96.1 South Waverly PA)
- Quincy MA: W271CG (102.1), Living Proof Inc. (WRYP 90.1 Wellfleet)
- Great Barrington MA: W266CK (101.1), University of Massachusetts (WFCR 88.5 Amherst)
- Lee MA: W278BT (103.5), University of Massachusetts (WFCR 88.5 Amherst)
- Worcester MA: W247CD (97.3), University of Massachusetts (WFCR 88.5 Amherst)
- Woodstock VT: W267BT (101.3), Vermont Public Radio (WVPR 89.5 Windsor)
- Hanover NH: W226BX (93.1), Vermont Public Radio (WVPR 89.5 Windsor VT)
- Keene NH: W298BT (107.5), Saga Communications (WKBK 1290 Keene)
*And there’s one more big deadline hitting at the FCC when they come back from the MLK Day holiday. Tomorrow’s the deadline for comments to be filed in the Commission’s first overall review of its AM engineering rules in several decades, and we’re already seeing input from broadcasters and other interested parties all over the region.
The FCC’s Notice of Proposed Rule Making looks at six questions: opening a window for new translator applications exclusively for AM stations, modifying daytime and nighttime community coverage requirements, eliminating the much-loathed “ratchet rule” for AM stations seeking to move their transmitters, allowing the use of modulation-dependent carrier level (MDCL) technology to reduce power bills and modifying AM antenna efficiency standards. It all sounds dry, but the outcome could bring some big opportunities for AM stations both big and small.
Anyone can file comments, and they don’t have to be elaborate: this link takes you to the “express” filing page for proceeding number 13-249, where you can enter your thoughts for the FCC to consider.
Here at Fybush Media, we’ll be submitting a fairly comprehensive set of comments, and we’ll supply you with a link as soon as they’re filed. We’ll look at what other broadcasters from the region have to say in next week’s NERW.
Young Kwon’s K Licensee Inc. is also making some DTV changes: it’s applying to go digital with two of its analog LPTV stations around New York City. W26DC (Channel 26) would move from Hempstead eastward to Roslyn, while W17CD (Channel 17) would jump the Long Island Sound from Stamford, Connecticut to Mount Sinai on Long Island.
Out there along the Route 17 corridor near the Delaware River, Times-Shamrock has won FCC permission to move WQFM (107.1 Hancock) down the dial to 104.5. The relay of rocker WEZX (106.9 Scranton PA) has had a hard time getting a clean signal from its parent station, and it’s hoping that moving its output frequency away from the receiver input frequency will help that situation and provide clearer “Rock 107” along the river.
In the Hudson Valley, WWLE (1170 Cornwall-on-Hudson) has once again been granted a construction permit to move down the dial to 1150. The latest CP is the third essentially identical permit the station has been issued to go from 800 watts, daytime-only, up to 2500 watts day, 500 watts at night. Two earlier versions expired in 2010 and 2013, and each time the station has reapplied for a new three-year permit. Will this one finally get built?
In Syracuse, Craig Fox is stunting again as we go to press. After just over three weeks of all-Beatles “WBTL” on WNDR (103.9 Mexico) and its two FM translators, the stations were carrying nature sounds and a message of “it’s coming” on Sunday night. The “WBTL” format was also running in slightly different form on WMBO (1340 Auburn), though not quite in a straight simulcast with 103.9 and its translators. The 103.9 facility had been religious/Spanish WVOA (“Love Radio”) until October, when Fox moved that format to what’s now WVOA-LP (Channel 6), operating as a “Franken-FM” on 87.7; 1340 had been part of a Radio Disney simulcast with WOLF (1490 Syracuse).
We send our sympathies to colleagues and family of Carl Silva, veteran engineer for Yankees radio broadcasts. Silva became ill during the 2012 season but was able to fend off cancer long enough to work through the end of the 2013 season. His illness worsened last fall, and Silva succumbed on Sunday morning at his home in Florida. Silva, 50, had worked not only on WCBS (880)’s Yankees games but also for the Spanish-language broadcast team and for Nets basketball. He’s survived by his wife, Teresa, and three children. There’s a support fund set up for his family at SVG Sports Broadcasting Fund ℅ Bryant Bank, Attn: Heike Harris, 1550 McFarland Boulevard N., Tuscaloosa, AL 35406.
*There’s a morning change at WCJW (1140 Warsaw) and its web of FM translators between Rochester and Buffalo. After two years at “CJ Country,” morning man Trevor Carey departed last week for a new gig in afternoons at WFLS (93.3) in Fredericksburg, Virginia. But PD RJ Jordan had a replacement ready: Jimi Jamm, who cut his teeth in upstate New York radio, is the new morning host at WCJW. Jamm had been working for Howard Rosen Promotion for the past seven years, but his radio resume before that includes stops at WDRQ in Detroit, KQKQ in Omaha and WKCI in New Haven.
RJ’s now on the hunt for a weekend host, and he says he’s looking for someone who’s not a beginner and who’s within easy driving distance of the station.
*The latest NIMBY fight over a new tower is playing out in southern NEW JERSEY, but it’s about one of PENNSYLVANIA‘s biggest AM stations. CBS Radio’s WPHT (1210 Philadelphia) is one of the few former class I-A clear channel signals that lacks any sort of backup transmission facility.
For most of those big 50,000-watt stations, that backup capability comes from a short tower on the same site as the main tower, and that’s just what CBS has planned for WPHT’s site in Moorestown, New Jersey. CBS wants to put up a 190-foot tower on the WPHT property that can serve as an auxiliary not only for 1210 but also for sister station KYW (1060 Philadelphia), which also lacks a backup for its own 50,000-watt facility in Whitemarsh Township, west of Philadelphia.
There’s a zoning hearing set for Tuesday, and the neighbors are already spreading the usual misinformation: this inane article on a local website makes it sound as though additional RF will be pumping out of the site, causing problems for neighbors who (for the most part) moved in many decades after then-WCAU built the site out in the countryside.
*Two station sales in western MASSACHUSETTS are off the table, for different reasons. In the Berkshires, we told you last August that Vox Communications had filed to sell its six stations in North Adams, Pittsfield and Great Barrington to Greg Reed’s Reed Miami Holdings LLC. When the deal to sell the stations – oldies WUPE (1110 Pittsfield), talk WBEC (1420 Pittsfield), top-40 WBEC-FM (95.9 Pittsfield), WUPE-FM (100.1 North Adams), AC WNAW (1230 North Adams) and full-service WSBS (860 Great Barrington) – was announced, it came with an unusual price tag. Instead of a dollar valuation, the paperwork at the FCC called for a price of 5.25 times cash flow. That prompted an objection from Pittsfield competitor WBRK/WBRK-FM, and now the deal has been withdrawn.
Over in Amherst, Pamal tells the FCC it took WPNI (1430) silent at the end of November 2013, and it’s asking for an STA to keep the signal off the air, reporting that it “does not generate revenues close to what is required to cover the cost of operations.” WPNI was to have been sold to the Love Radio Church, apparently part of the radio empire associated with Brian Dodge (of WCKL 560 Catskill NY fame), but a series of FCC objections has scuttled that sale; Love filed a motion to withdraw its application to transfer the license last week. WPNI had been simulcasting WUMB-FM (91.9 Boston) to keep the transmitter warm, but after Pamal sold former sister station WRNX (100.9) to Clear Channel a few years back, it’s probably been just a matter of time until the two-tower, 5000-watt WPNI site became too expensive to operate. (Pamal even replaced one of the two towers after it was accidentally downed in 2011.)
Savage’s move to afternoons had a ripple effect in CONNECTICUT, too: his shift to 3-6 PM on Buckley’s “Talk of Connecticut” stations (WDRC 1360 Hartford, WMMW 1470 Meriden, WWCO 1240 Waterbury, WSNG 610 Torrington) pushed local talker Mary Jones out of her afternoon slot there. It’s not the first time Jones has been bumped from the stations; she was cut loose in 2008 and rehired a few years later.
*In RHODE ISLAND, there’s a new newscast coming to “Eyewitness News.” The shared newsroom of LIN’s WPRI (Channel 12) and WNAC (Channel 64) is adding a 6:30 PM newscast next Monday, to air on WNAC (“Fox Providence”). It will join the 5-6:30 PM block seen on WPRI and the 10 PM hour of news on WNAC.
*There’s one fewer FM station in NEW HAMPSHIRE: the Wentworth Baptist Church has surrendered the license to WPVH (90.7 Plymouth). The license surrender was submitted to the FCC back on December 17; it’s not clear why it took the Commission a month to put it on public notice. The 200-watt religious signal had been on the air only since 2010. Known as “The Voice of Hope,” it carried programming from the North Carolina-based Fundamental Broadcasting Network.
*In MAINE, the Catholic Presence Radio Network has a bigger signal in Augusta. WWTP (89.5) relocated its tower from Eastern Avenue on the city’s south side up to Ingraham Mountain, northeast of Augusta, taking a power cut from 690 tp 480 watts but gaining a big increase in height, from 20 to 357 feet.
*In CANADA, the CRTC is insisting on drawing a distinction between two nearby resort towns at the southern tip of Georgian Bay.
Those plans drew objections from Rock 95 Broadcasting in nearby Barrie, which feared Corus planned to try to use CKCB as a flanker to accompany its stations in Barrie. And while the CRTC acknowledged that both CHGB and CKCB have signal issues that require power increases, it sent them back to come up with more modest plans for power boosts.
The CRTC also expressed concern about Collingwood and Wasaga Beach, just 20 km apart, merging into a single regional market with a lack of “local service” to each town. That becomes more amusing when you know that the studio facility for Wasaga Beach’s CHGB is already…yes, in Collingwood.
*In Montreal, there’s change coming to CKBE (92.5 the Beat). Mark Dickie resigned from the Cogeco-owned top-40 station last week to take a new job out of town, and his replacement won’t stay long either. PD Leo Da Estrela was named interim GM, but he already has plans to leave CKBE to devote himself to a new startup media company. Promotions diretcor Linda Fraraccio has also departed, headed to CTV’s CFCF-TV (Channel 12).
*And in Toronto, NERW was first to report late last year that ethnic CJSA (101.3) was experimenting with HD Radio; last Monday, CJSA officially launched the first HD-2 stream in Canada, carrying a separate feed of South Asian programming from its main channel. The CRTC is now studying CJSA’s experience and considering a wider rollout of HD Radio north of the border.
The 2014 Tower Site Calendar is ready to send for YOU (or someone else), spiral bound, shrink wrapped and best of all, with a convenient hole for hanging!
This year’s pinups include the iconic towers of Catalina Island, a combiner system in St. Louis, the twin towers of KNRS in Salt Lake City, a historic rooftop site in Jamestown, New York and many more!
Click here to order your 2014 calendar! We’re still shipping several times weekly, so you can have your calendar before much of January has gone by…
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: January 21, 2013
Cumulus” “Wheel of Formats” ended right on schedule, with a New York -focused audio montage including Frank Sinatra”s “New York, New York” and Billy Joel”s “New York State of Mind” – and moments ago, that launched into the city”s first full-signal country format in more than a decade and a half.“The World”s Biggest Country Station, New York”s new Nash FM” is, as expected, the market #1 outpost for what Cumulus expects to make into a national lifestyle brand. (“Country for Life” is the tagline on the fairly skimpy site that went live just as the station was launching.)
There”s no sign – yet, at least – of live air talent or even much of a New York-based staff to the station, which we”re expecting to be programmed on more of a national level, likely with a lot of input from Cumulus in Nashville and Dallas. And in a way, that shows how it was only Cumulus that had the ability to pull off a successful country station in New York City in 2013. The company”s existing New York cluster of WABC (770) and especially WPLJ (95.5) already has a sales force that”s heavily focused on the suburbs, which is where 94.7 will draw the bulk of its audience, too. And Cumulus” strong national sales focus should also help overcome a lot of the perceived “New York agency bias” that has kept country off the dial in New York City since WYNY (103.5) flipped to WKTU 17 years ago this month.
Much more on Nash FM in the days and weeks to come…
*Upstate, Cranesville Block Company just might be the luckiest broadcaster in the region. After spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to build a four-tower 10,000-watt directional array for its new WKAJ (1120 St. Johnsville), Cranesville was on the verge of losing its entire investment when the FCC refused to grant the station a license to cover its construction permit.
The WKAJ site, June 2012
That, as NERW readers know, was in large part Cranesville’s own fault, since it didn’t complete that construction before the December 2011 expiration date on the CP, and didn’t contact the FCC for an extension until after the towers finally went up in early 2012.
The FCC acknowledges that it”s “deeply concerned about [Cranesville]’s disregard of the Commission’s requirements for seeking additional time, its failure to provide complete information initially, and its unauthorized construction after permit expiration,” and it admonishes Cranesville for all that – but it also recognizes (no doubt aided by the intervention of U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer) that there were some pretty serious factors keeping WKAJ from being built on time.
As we reported back in October, Cranesville made the case to the FCC that the aftereffects of two big storms that hit the region made it impossible for construction crews to get to St. Johnsville for several months, and even if they had been able to access the site, Cranesville itself was unable to pay much attention to WKAJ because it was focused on its own core business of supplying concrete and concrete blocks to assist in all the other road and building repairs in the region.
Taking pains to emphasize that this ruling isn’t intended to set any precedent for other permittees, the FCC has now extended the WKAJ construction permit to the end of 2012 and reinstated the station’s callsign, leaving just one more step (the actual license to cover) yet to take place before the long-delayed signal can finally hit the air in the Mohawk Valley.
In other similar cases, the FCC has imposed some hefty fines after the fact on broadcasters who’ve engaged in unauthorized construction after CP expiration, but the Commission’s careful use of the term “admonish” suggests that Cranesville won’t even face any monetary penalties.
*When WDST (100.1 Woodstock) announced at the start of 2013 that it was adding longtime Albany morning man Bob “Wolf” Wohlfeld to its lineup, the move felt a little strange to us – as a laid-back AAA outlet, “Radio Woodstock” didn”t seem like a good fit for the more high-energy sort of “Waking Up with the Wolf” show Wohlfeld had done at WPYX in Albany and at WPDH in Poughkeepsie before that. Turns out we weren”t the only ones thinking that way: on Friday morning, Wohlfeld was abruptly gone from WDST and former morning man Greg Gattine was back in place.
“My style of humor and the things I do best were not going to work with what WDST is known for,” said Wohlfeld on his Facebook page. “It was a very friendly parting and I hope to work with Gary on some other projects in the future.”
*Way up north, Stephens Media is scrambling to get two of its stations back on the air after a lightning strike early Sunday started a fire that destroyed the transmitter building shared by WYSX (96.7 Morristown) and WPAC (98.7 Ogdensburg). The fire also knocked off sister station WNCQ (102.9 Canton), which had an STL link running through the WYSX/WPAC tower. WNCQ was able to get back on the air with a computer running automation from its transmitter site south of Canton, but WYSX and WPAC are reduced to streaming-only services for now as Stephens works to get temporary transmitters in place to restore signals from their shared site.
*In MASSACHUSETTS, the upset win by the Baltimore Ravens last night not only ended the New England Patriots” season, but also the broadcast career of one of the greatest sports voices New England has ever known. Former WBZ (1030) sports director Gil Santos was already honored lavishly for his 36 years as the Pats” play-by-play announcer at the team”s last regular-season game, where he was inducted into the team”s Hall of Fame alongside his longtime broadcast partner Gino Cappelletti. Like most of New England, Santos was hoping his retirement at the end of the Patriots season would come with a Super Bowl win in New Orleans, but it wasn”t to be: the team”s loss Sunday night marked his 745th and last game behind the microphone. Santos has suffered serious health problems in recent years, and we wish him all the best in his retirement.
Five Years Ago: January 19, 2009
We’re still not sure how much stock to put in the widely-circulating rumors about big cuts coming to Clear Channel this week, especially after the message-board echo chamber has had its way with them, but there’s at least one sign of the company’s downsizing: in addition to her duties as PD of NEW YORK’s Z100 (WHTZ 100.3 Newark NJ), Sharon Dastur added the PD title last week at Clear Channel sister station WKQI (95.5) in Detroit.
Yes, that means a full-market top 40 station in a top-ten market will have a PD who’s in town only a day or two each month. No, we’re not sure this is a sign, as some have speculated, that the company is planning to massively nationalize its programming. (We’re quite certain, for one thing, that the satellite receivers that have been installed at CC transmitter sites nationwide are not, as a prominent blogger has been suggesting, designed to eliminate local studios – they are, rather, part of the company’s emergency response plan that was put in place after Hurricane Katrina wiped out its New Orleans studios, forcing its New Orleans stations to be fed via satellite from Baton Rouge.)
But no, this certainly isn’t a good thing for anyone hoping for a sign that radio’s biggest owners (as opposed to the small-market guys, who are faring pretty well, considering) have any real sense of how to renew their focus on quality content, rather than simply continuing to cut costs until there’s nothing left that anyone would want to listen to.
The big news from the talk radio scene in eastern MASSACHUSETTS last week was what didn’t happen: despite rumors that suggested WTKK (96.9 Boston) middayers Jim Braude and Margery Eagan might decamp for mornings at rival WRKO (680), they’re instead staying put at the Greater Media FM talker, which signed them to a “long term agreement” keeping them in place on WTKK.
The new PD and morning man at Northeast Broadcasting’s WXRV (92.5 Andover) is a familiar voice in the market: he’s Beau Raines, who programmed WROR (105.7) from 1999-2002 and WZLX (100.7) from 2002-2005. Raines had most recently been in Denver, where he was programming Entercom’s KQMT (99.5) until budget cuts claimed that job last fall.
Saga is adding to its cluster in Manchester, NEW HAMPSHIRE with a new top-40 station, “Hot Hits New Hampshire.” Like its new outlets in Keene (as well as Ithaca, N.Y. and Asheville, N.C.), this one’s a translator – two of them, actually – relaying the HD2 of a bigger Saga FM, in this case WZID (95.7 Manchester). In Manchester, “Hot Hits” is on W231BR (94.1), which had been relaying Saga’s WMLL (96.5), while in Concord it’s on W276BJ (103.1).
In CONNECTICUT, CBS Radio’s WTIC (1080 Hartford) has apparently concluded that it can’t win a fight with the FCC to retain the unusual condition on its license that allowed it to operate with its daytime non-directional facilities until sunset in Dallas, where co-owned KRLD shares the frequency. WTIC’s grandfathered extended daytime operation was challenged by WOAP, another 1080 signal in Michigan, which won a signal upgrade by persuading the FCC that the post-sunset operation in Connecticut should receive only groundwave, not skywave, protection.
To prevent further incursion on its signal during the period before Dallas sunset (which falls anywhere from 45 to 75 minutes after Hartford sunset, depending on the time of year), WTIC has applied to the FCC for a license modification that will eliminate the special post-sunset conditions, instead switching the Hartford signal to nighttime directional operation (and the class A skywave protection that goes with it) at Hartford sunset.
There’s a new station on the air in south central PENNSYLVANIA, where Harrisburg public broadcaster WITF flipped the switch to put WYPM (93.3 Chambersburg) on the air at 10 AM on Jan. 9. The new signal is the relocated former WROG (102.9 Cumberland MD), which former owner Bob Stevens moved out of the way of an upgrade to his WANB-FM (103.1) in the Pittsburgh area, then sold to WITF for $875,000. It’s carrying an NPR news and talk lineup, with the same schedule that had been heard on the “Engage” HD2 service on WITF’s main FM signal in Harrisburg.
WJAL-TV, the independent station licensed to Hagerstown, Maryland that serves viewers on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line. That, we suspect, means the permanent end of WJAL’s analog signal on channel 68; as for WJAL-DT, which was to move from 16 to 39 after February, it too remains off the air, but WJAL is reportedly working on ways to use other stations’ DTV subchannels to restore a signal to the air.
Ten Years Ago: January 19, 2004
It was a slow news week here at NERW Central, and it seems to have been a slow news week overall in MASSACHUSETTS, too – at least judging by the amount of attention devoted to the “revelation” that WBZ (1030 Boston)’s veteran morning news anchor does his broadcasting from his vacation home in Florida several weeks a year.
By way of disclaimer, it’s no secret at all that your editor’s resume includes a stint (1992-97) at WBZ, much of that time as Gary LaPierre’s morning news writer – but LaPierre’s Florida remotes were hardly a secret to anyone in the Boston broadcasting community. To the Boston Globe, though (and longtime readers of this column know just what we think of that paper’s coverage of the broadcast scene), the discovery that some of LaPierre’s broadcasts were coming from St. Augustine was worthy of a long story, complete with quotes from the “journalism ethics experts” whose numbers must still have been in the Globe Rolodex from the days of Patricia Smith and Mike Barnicle.
LaPierre, who’s now 61 and coming up on 40 years of doing news at WBZ, has been talking about retiring for years. In his last contract negotiation, he asked the station to let him work from Florida for half of each winter month and for a couple of weeks in the summer, and the station was happy to let him do so in exchange for his willingness to stay with the top-rated broadcast. Though WBZ never explicitly told listeners that LaPierre wasn’t in the station’s Allston studios , LaPierre also never claimed to be in Boston when he wasn’t (and never denied he was working from Florida when anyone asked.)
Up in NEW HAMPSHIRE, the ever-growing Nassau Broadcasting is adding yet another set of stations to its nascent New England cluster, as it picks up oldies WNNH (99.1 Henniker), oldies WLKZ (104.9 Wolfeboro) and hot AC WHOB (106.3 Nashua) from Tele-Media, which bows out of New England with the sale. No purchase price has been announced yet; the Tele-Media stations join the clusters Nassau is buying in Maine from Mariner and the WMTW Broadcast Group.
From Concord, Harry Kozlowski checks in with an update on the construction of WCNH-LP (94.7), the new classical music station that’s getting ready to sign on up there. Harry sent along this picture of the 2-bay Shively antenna that the folks from Prescott Tower in Vermont rigged up over the weekend at the station’s site on Little Pond Road; he says transmitter tests will get underway as early as the middle of this week, with the formal sign-on coming in February.
Speaking of power increases, WYSL (1040 Avon) has a big one in the works. Before the FCC put a freeze on applications for “minor” AM facility changes last week (in preparation for a rare window for “major” changes next week), WYSL owner Bob Savage slid in an application to take the news-talk station from 2500 watts during the day to 20,000 watts daytime and 13,200 watts during critical hours. (WYSL would still be just 500 watts at night.) All that, and no changes to WYSL’s four-tower directional array – it’s a long way from the 500-watt daytimer that WYSL was when it signed on for the first time 17 years ago this month. (We have fond editorial memories of visiting Bob at the station even before its official debut…)
In southern NEW JERSEY, WSNJ (1240 Bridgeton) is getting a new owner. Quinn Broadcasting, which already owns WMVB (1440) in nearby Millville, will pay Ed Bold’s estate $550,000 for the AM station and the studio-transmitter facility that’s long been home to 1240 and its sister station, WSNJ-FM (107.7). And while the FM station will have a completely new sound in a few months when its sale to Ed Seeger’s American Media Services closes (and it’s then moved to 107.9 in Pennsauken and spun to Radio One to serve Philadelphia), Quinn’s owner, Millville mayor Jim Quinn, says the AM facility will keep the hyper-local programming that’s long distinguished WSNJ. Quinn says some WSNJ programming will be simulcast on WMVB, and he plans to add a Webcast as well.
Forever Broadcasting finished reworking its station lineup in Altoona, PENNSYLVANIA early last week, returning a well-known set of calls to the airwaves in the process. After several days of stunting on what had been classic hits “Majic” WMAJ-FM (104.9 Hollidaysburg), the station relaunched as “Rocky 104.9,” playing some newer rock along with the old, and applying for new calls WRKY – the same calls that spent many years on co-owned 103.5 over in Steubenville, Ohio, before it became “Froggy” WOGH.
Fifteen Years Ago: January 15, 1999
Fresh from a morning of doing live shots in the snow (“It’s still snowing out here…drive carefully!”), we turn our attention to the radio dial and find there’s not much going on out there. Here’s what passes for this week’s highlights:
No more local programming at the adult-standards outlet in Springfield, MASSACHUSETTS. As of the first of the year, WMAS (1450) has switched from ABC/SMN’s “Stardust” to Jones’ “Music of Your Life” satellite service. In the process, WMAS also dismissed morning guy George Murphy, whose show was the last vestige of local radio on the AM side at WMAS.
A few new pirates on the air in the Hub: We’re hearing reports of foreign-language stations on 102.1 and 102.9…more details to come.
A RHODE ISLAND morning team was suspended for a day after a too-successful hoax Thursday morning. WWBB (101.5 Providence) morning team Daria Bruno and Tiffany Hill told listeners that the state’s “Department of Outdated Decorations” would begin imposing $25 fines on anyone who didn’t remove their Christmas decorations by noon. Gullible listeners hauled out the ladders and began pulling down their lights; some apparently stayed home from work to get the job done, according to newspaper reports. “B101” program director Al Brock went on the air to apologize mid-morning. NERW notes that this stunt, at least, didn’t bring the Secret Service calling — unlike two stations down South whose morning jocks claimed they had scanned and printed phony $1 bills and were using them in the station vending machines.
A veteran CONNECTICUT newscaster is calling it quits in April. Ten years to the day after launching the 10 PM newscast at WTIC-TV (Channel 61) in Hartford, Pat Sheehan will sign off on April 10. Sheehan already had 24 years in the business when he joined the “News at Ten” in 1989, with stints at WFSB, WTNH, WHCT, CPTV, and at several Nutmeg State radio stations. He’ll continue his day job as a broker at A.G. Edwards in Hartford, and he’s not ruling out a return to the airwaves sometime soon. Speaking of WHCT (Channel 18), it has switched from the Shop at Home network to ValueVision, which we’re sure will help the station better serve the ol’ “public interest, convenience, and necessity”…
An upstate NEW YORK cluster could be broken up soon. The FCC wants to take a closer look at the Binghamton stations being sold by Wicks to Citadel. The cluster of news-talk WNBF (1290), standards WKOP (1360), country WHWK (98.1), rock WAAL (99.1), and oldies WYOS (104.1 Chenango Bridge) pulls in 63% of the market’s ad revenue, according to BIA, which is far above the informal 40% standard the FCC and Justice Department seem to be using. Don’t look to the market’s other big owner, Majac, to be able to pick up anything spun off from this deal — its cluster of sports WENE (1430 Endicott), rock WKGB (92.5 Susquehanna PA), AC WMXW (103.3 Vestal), and CHR WMRV (105.7 Endicott) is already bringing home just about all the rest of the market’s radio dollars.
Twenty Years Ago: January 14, 1994
I’m normally based in Boston, I know…but sometimes I make the trek along the Mass Pike and the NY State Thruway (I-90) to my ancestral home of Rochester NY. Here’s what I encountered along the drive last weekend:
WEBSTER MA: Look for WXXW-FM, a class A on 98.9, to take the airwaves soon. The format will be adult contemporary via satellite, and the station will serve the Worcester market (which already has local soft rockers WXLO 104.5 and WSRS 96.1, plus Boston’s WMJX, WSSH, and WBMX). The transmitter is in place, and the single FM bay goes up within the next week on the AM stick of sister WGFP-940.
WXXW is listed on the Don and Mike list; they’re not confirming that that’s true, though.
SOUTHBRIDGE MA: WESO-970 and WQVR-100.1 are moving from their cramped studios on Hamilton Street to a more spacious location nearby in the next couple of weeks.
SPRINGFIELD MA: WSPR-1270 is back on air after two years dark, with a Spanish format. Class D WNEK is no longer on 97.5, but is not yet on air on its new freq of 99.7.
ALBANY NY: WROW-FM 95.5 is no more. WROW and sister WROW-590 have finally been sold to Albany Broadcasting Co., owners of crosstown WPTR-1540 and WFLY-92.3. At the dawn of the new year, WROW-FM became WYJB-”B 95.5″. Format is essentially unchanged; soft rock. WROW-590 is now simulcasting all-news (mostly CNN HN) WPTR. Expect the all-news format to move to 590 this month, with WPTR to take on a new talk format. WROW/WYJB will likely be shoehorned into PTR/WFLY’s cramped studios behind Rt. 5 between Albany and Schenectady. That means an end to 4 decades of WROW sharing space with WTEN-TV 10. TEN began as WROW-TV 41 in the early ’50s. The station became WCDB-TV 41, co-owned with WCDA-29 Hagaman NY and WCDC-19 North Adams MA. In 1959, Cap Cities won a VHF allocation (against the wishes of WHEC-10 Rochester and WJAR-10 Providence) on channel 10. WCDA-29 left the air. WCDB-41 became WTEN-10. Cap Cities sold the stations in the 80s.
SCHENECTADY NY: Stopped in to visit WGY. The station is in very funky, old-fashioned studios built by GE to house the GY stations and WRGB-TV. The walls are lined with historic photos. Although the radio and TV have been separately owned since 1982, they still share the building…no locked doors, and the WGY-FM studio has a window that looks down into the TV news studio! WRGB-TV has 3 enormous studios…the Golden Age of TV lives! Videos on request…
UTICA/ROME NY: The duopoly with 1350/102.5 Rome and 1480/93.5 Remsen has shaken out like this: 1350-WRNY and 1480-WADR now simulcast…satellite music of your life most of the day, with few IDs. The top-hour legal did not fire the hour I heard them…yes I have it on tape! In PM drive, they run a really bad talk show. The host never ID’d the station, had zero phone callers in the hour I listened, and did 3-minute live spots for both advertisers. Yawwwnnnn… Meanwhile, the duopoly flopped calls and formats on the former WUUU-102.5 and WKDY-93.5. WUUU’s oldies moved to class A 93.5, WKDY’s country to class B 102.5. Meanwhile, WFRG-1450/96.1 “Frog Country” is now WODZ-AM/FM, “Oldies 96″. The Big Frog has hopped to a new home on 100kw FM 104.3 Utica, historically WKGW, and for the last few months WKFM, “Kix” classic rock (the format and calls formerly heard on 104.7 Fulton-Syracuse).
SYRACUSE: The late WEZG 100.9/WNSS 1200 are back on after a few months of darkness, now as WKRL AM-FM, “K-Rock”. They simulcast WKLL Frankfort-Utica 94.9 and its hard-rock format. The 100.9 signal, a weak class A, holds up going east just to the point where 94.9 gets strong…so a good duopoly. Class A drop-in WTKW 99.5 Bridgeport-Syracuse has dumped satellite country for live classic rock.
Despite plans and a CP to move to 90.9, Baldwinsville High School’s WBXL-FM is still on 90.5, where I heard a surprisingly professional-sounding female jock one afternoon. Must have a good training program there…
ROCHESTER: The big news is the on-air debut in December of WEZO-FM 93.3. This is the CP that belonged to WYSL-1030 in Avon NY, south of Rochester. It was to have been WYNQ, and signed on simulcasting WYSL for one month in Dec. Then owner Bob Savage entered into an LMA-to-buy with Lincoln Group, owners of WHAM/WVOR/WHTK Rochester…and the station became automated EZ, under the historic WEZO calls. WEZO was Rochester’s monster EZ on 101.3 from 1971 until 1987, when the station became WRMM, “Warm”. This move brings the historic EZO calls back to the market, and with the old 101.3 morning host Jerry Warner no less!
The new WEZO has a so-so signal, a class A from Rts. 5/20 and Oaks Opening Road in West Bloomfield, about 15 miles S of Rochester. It’s OK south of the city, less so in the northern ‘burbs.
Oh yeah…historically this is revenge. See, the original WEZO made its mark by stealing the entire WVOR 100.5 audience. WVOR was the original EZ listening station…but in July 1971, it was knocked off the air by a fire. While VOR stayed off for weeks, country WNYR-FM 101.3 quietly changed format to EZ and calls to WEZO, and took over the EZ franchise in town. When VOR came back on the air, its audience had already defected! And who’s behind the new WEZO 93.3? The Lincoln Group, owners of WHAM and… WVOR! I wonder if anyone there gets the irony of it all?
Meanwhile WIRQ, the first noncomm FM in Monroe County (circa 1959), plugs along with its 30 watts on 94.3, its third frequency (original was 90.9, then 93.3, then the move to 94.3 when the WYNQ/WEZO CP was issued). Now they have to move again…and this time may have to go dark. A new CP has been issued for Brighton on 94.1 (can you say OVERBUILT MARKET? knew you could…), and now there may be nowhere to go for poor WIRQ. I’m rooting for them to bump W238AR off its 95.5 channel in Rochester. W238AR is a translator designed to help rimshotter WRQI-95.1 “Rock-It 95″ S. Bristol get into Rochester…but translators CAN be bumped by class D noncomms…so stay tuned!
On the AM side, the former WPXY-AM 1280 is now “Hot Talk 1280″, WHTK…being sold by Pyramid to Lincoln Group (WHAM/WVOR/WEZO). The format includes Imus in the Morning, Liddy, Gene Burns, Don and Mike, and Dr. Joy Browne. And that’s the buzz from my old hometown.
One New England note: WKBR-1250 in Manchester NH is coming back on the air. It’s been testing with dead carrier on both day and night pattern…look for it!