In this week’s issue… Buckley exits Hartford – Ottawa’s “Bear” hibernates – Vermont FM seeks state-line hop – Mets add LI signals – Hot 97 on TV?

By SCOTT FYBUSH

*When Richard D. Buckley joined with John Jaeger in late June 1957 to pay $830,000 for WHIM (1110) in Providence, who could have imagined that it would inaugurate more than half a century of continuous family ownership in New England – or that by the time that family tradition came to an end, the Buckleys would be the last ones standing out of all of the family owners who built and grew the region’s broadcasting industry?

buckleyTwo years after buying WHIM, Buckley-Jaeger Broadcasting paid $815,000 for WDRC (1360 Hartford), and by October 1959 it had built out the FM construction permit that came with the AM station – and for 55 years since then, the Buckley family has owned WDRC-FM (102.9) and WDRC(AM), along with three more simulcast AM stations that joined the cluster later on. Now that amazing stretch of family ownership is coming to an end with the announcement that Buckley Radio is selling the WDRC stations to Connoisseur Media for an as-yet-undisclosed price.

It’s no surprise that Buckley is winding down its ownership: after Richard D. Buckley’s death in 1972, his son, Richard D. Buckley, Jr. (“Rick”) took over the reins of the company, which had by then expanded to include stations in Seattle (KOL), San Francisco (KKHI), Los Angeles (KGIL), Philadelphia (WIBG) and Minneapolis (WWTC). Rick Buckley sold some of those stations and added a big one, New York City’s WOR (710). But with Rick Buckley’s death in 2011, the company’s growth years drew to a close. WOR, of course, was sold to Clear Channel at the end of 2012, and Buckley later sold one of its FM signals in Monterey, California.

That left a company stretched thinly across the country: CEO Joe Bilotta, who’s been with Buckley since the early 1970s, is based out in California, where he oversees Buckley Radio clusters in Bakersfield, Merced and Monterey/Salinas, while the Hartford stations became Buckley’s lone remaining East Coast outpost, overseen by Rick Buckley’s nephew, Eric Fahnoe.

connoisseur-logo-lg“All businesses have lifecycles, and the radio industry certainly has seen its share of change in recent years,” Bilotta said in the announcement of the sale. That’s an understatement, really: when the senior Buckley bought WDRC 55 years ago, radio was a family business even in markets as large as Hartford. In the decades that followed, Buckley’s competitors transitioned from individuals like T. Mitchell Hastings and Scott Killgore (and the local behemoth, Travelers Insurance) to giant corporations such as Clear Channel and CBS Radio. But while those companies moved staff and changed formats with abandon, WDRC remained a stable, almost family atmosphere, retaining executives for decades at a stretch and staying put at the same Blue Hill Avenue address for the last four decades.

Since there’s no LMA before the sale (brokered by Richard Foreman), nothing will change until the deal closes, which is expected to happen in June. After that, we’d be surprised if Connoisseur makes many changes at WDRC-FM. “The Big D” has made a smooth transition in recent years from oldies to classic hits (with oldies surviving on HD2), carving out a comfortable slice of the market against CBS Radio’s AC WRCH (100.5) and Clear Channel’s classic hits WHCN (105.9).

Connoisseur, for its part, tends not to be overly quick about changing formats when it takes over. WDRC is right in the backyard of Connecticut-based CEO Jeff Warshaw, whose first purchase in his home state came a year ago when he acquired Cox’s WPLR (99.1 New Haven), WEZN (99.9 Bridgeport), WFOX-FM (95.9 Norwalk) and the LMA of Yale’s WYBC-FM (94.3 New Haven). Connoisseur hasn’t touched the formats at any of those stations since taking over, and the addition of WDRC-FM will mesh nicely with that Milford-based cluster, making Connoisseur the only owner that can offer advertisers anything close to full statewide reach in Connecticut, give or take the New London/Norwich market in the state’s southeastern corner and the Danbury market at the western edge.

wdrcamWhat’s less clear is the future of WDRC’s AM stations. When Connoisseur bought the Cox cluster, Cox had already spun off WSTC (1400 Stamford) and WNLK (1350 Norwalk) to Sacred Heart University’s WSHU public radio operation. The Buckley AMs – WDRC (1360) in Hartford, WMMW (1470 Meriden) to the southeast, WWCO (1240 Waterbury) to the southwest and WSNG (610 Torrington) to the northwest – take up a lot of resources for little return. Three of the four stations have big directional arrays, none runs more than 5,000 watts, and their “Talk of Connecticut” simulcast has drawn combined ratings as low as a 0.1 in recent books. While Connoisseur has maintained legacy AMs at some of its clusters, including WHLI (1100) on Long Island and WJET (1400)/WFNN (1330) in Erie, Warshaw has been much more enthusiastic about building on the FM side. Will he want to keep WDRC’s network of small AMs, or might they be spun off?

If Warshaw seeks expansion in the Hartford market, he may have opportunities. CBS Radio has long been said to be interested in spinning off its cluster, which includes four FMs and the market’s big AM gun, WTIC (1080). Clear Channel is less likely to be a seller of its four FM/one AM cluster. And there are two independent operators still making a go of it with big FMs: John Fuller’s Red Wolf (WMRQ 104.1) and Marlin (WCCC-FM 106.9, as well as WCCC 1290).

We’ll be watching closely as Connoisseur takes over, and we’re sorry to see the end of the Buckley family’s long run as the last of the old-school ownership groups in the region. (Buckley senior’s ownership history actually went back even earlier than WHIM in 1957; the money for that purchase came from the profit he and Jaeger made from their brief ownership of New York’s WNEW in 1954-55 and its sale to what became Metromedia; Buckley was a top executive at WNEW and its sister TV station, WABD/WNEW-TV 5, even as he was building his station cluster.)

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*Speaking of WDRC, a former station executive has died. Jack Roberts made the rounds as a top-40 jock and programmer back in the sixties and seventies, making stops everywhere from Boston’s WRKO and WMEX and Providence’s WPRO to smaller signals such as WBET in Brockton and WHIL in Medford. (Pause here for the obligatory chuckle at that other trade’s story that links all those historic callsigns to the far-flung stations where they’re used now, not to the places Jack actually worked…that’s why you read NERW instead, right?)

Roberts served as VP/GM at WDRC along the way, too, and eventually made his way westward as an executive producer for CRN Digital Talk Radio. He’d been ill in recent years, and he died Friday in Los Angeles at age 62.

Terzi says goodbye (photo: WTIC-TV)
Terzi says goodbye (photo: WTIC-TV)

*Another CONNECTICUT institution is also leaving the daily anchor desk. Al Terzi joined the news staff at WTIC radio and TV way back in 1968, and by the time WTIC-TV (Channel 3) went to new ownership as WFSB in 1974, Terzi was already one of the state’s best-known anchors. After a brief interlude in Florida from 1978-1980, Terzi returned home, anchoring at WTNH (Channel 8) from 1980-1994, back at WFSB from 1994 until 2012, and at a second incarnation of WTIC-TV (Channel 61) since then.

Terzi has been the 5 PM anchor there since the station launched that newscast a year ago, but he told “FOX CT” colleagues last week that he’ll step back from that role at the end of the month. At age 72, he’ll stay with WTIC-TV as co-host of the Sunday morning political show, “The Real Story.”

*Over at Clear Channel, Mike Bower is out as afternoon host on WUCS (ESPN 97.9) in Hartford and WAVZ (1300) in New Haven. No local replacement for “The Bower Show” has been named yet; Bower says his contract was up and Clear Channel chose not to renew it.

*In an otherwise quiet week in MASSACHUSETTS, the big news once again came from Boston’s WBUR-FM (90.9), where Mike LeClair and his engineering team are pushing ahead on an attempt to get a new Cape Cod signal on the air barely a month from now. WBUR just bought the soon-to-expire construction permit for 89.1 in Eastham from Home Improvement Ministries, and there’s no way Home Improvement’s plans to build a brand-new tower for the station could possibly get carried out before the CP expires April 14.

So instead, WBUR has applied to modify the 89.1 CP to call for the use of an existing cellular tower in Eastham. From there, the new 89.1 would run 42 kW/180′, horizontal-only, instead of the current permit’s 23 kW/285′, vertical-only. Can WBUR get a high-powered facility on the air in just a month? If it can meet the deadline, it will have solid coverage of the entire mid-Cape and outer Cape from its new signal, nicely complementing WBUA (92.7 Tisbury)’s coverage of Martha’s Vineyard and the lower Cape. (And it won’t still need its last remaining non-owned simulcast, over Cape Cod Tech’s WCCT-FM 90.3 in Harwich, which will have its coverage area duplicated by the new 89.1.)

*Two radio obituaries from the North Shore: Norm Durkee was “the Voice of the Radio” on Salem’s WESX (1230) for four decades, starting at the station as an engineer in 1948, when it had been on the air for just a few years. Durkee rose to become the station’s general manager before retiring in 1987. He died February 28, at age 91, survived by his wife of more than 66 years, Laura. A memorial service was held in Wenham on Saturday.

And Doug Mascott was a part of community programming on WMWM (91.7 Salem) for almost 15 years, hosting the Sunday morning local music show “Trax of the Town” beginning in 1999. Mascott began his broadcasting career at Curry College’s WMLN (91.5 Milton) in 1984; he’d also worked at the old WVVE (102.3 Stonington CT) and at WNSH (1570 Beverly, now WMVX). Mascott was just a few days short of turning 50; a memorial show aired in his usual 9-noon slot yesterday on WMWM.

Thom Richards (photo: WOKO)
Thom Richards (photo: WOKO)

*In VERMONT, there’s a rare opening at Hall’s country giant, WOKO (98.9 Burlington), created by the impending retirement of market veteran Thom Richards. He’s been part of Burlington-Plattsburgh radio since arriving there from New Hampshire in 1978, working at WDOT (1400/1390) and WVMT (620) before joining what was then WQCR in 1985. After WQCR became WOKO in 1990, Richards settled in as afternoon jock, a post he’ll leave at the end of the month when he retires.

Up in the farthest reaches of the Northeast Kingdom, the little town of Canaan (pop. 1078) has been on the books with an FM channel allocation for many years now. A 1990s construction permit for a station to be known as WXMX was never built, and the channel went back into the pool for auction years later. In an FCC auction in April 2012, veteran NEW HAMPSHIRE broadcaster Barry Lunderville paid $9,400 for the class C3 construction permit – but now he’s applying to shift 94.1 down in class and one state to the right, relocating the new 94.1A allocation to Milan, New Hampshire.

That move, if granted, would make the new signal much more useful to Lunderville: it would put it right on the tower of his existing WKDR (1490 Berlin), giving that AM signal a 6 kW/-69′ FM counterpart for its simulcast of “Outlaw” classic hits/classic rock WOTX (93.7 Lunenburg). Unless we’re misreading the FCC records, Lunderville will have plenty of time to get that new signal built: the Canaan signal he won in the 2012 auction still doesn’t have a granted construction permit, and so the three-year clock to construct and license a facility hasn’t started yet.

From the LPFM front: the new 102.7 in Concord has taken calls, WICX-LP.

Jo Painter (photo; WEEU)
Jo Painter (photo; WEEU)

*In Reading, PENNSYLVANIA, Jo Painter has retired as general manager of WEEU (830). Just as the independently-owned station is a rarity these days, Painter herself was a rare breed of GM – she also hosted the station’s 3-5 PM local talk show until stepping down at the end of February. No replacement has been named yet for the GM post, but the afternoon timeslot now belongs to Andi Kurzweg (of the radio station’s sister newspaper, the Reading Eagle) and “Good Afternoon Berks Country.” Painter had been with WEEU for 29 years.

Across town, the Reading Fightin Phils have a new radio voice as they get ready to kick off the 2014 Eastern League season. Mike Ventola comes to the team’s broadcasts from two years with the Frontier League’s Southern Illinois Miners; before that, he’d been a broadcast assistant with the Lehigh Valley IronPigs and, back in 2010, with the Reading team. The Fightin Phils stay on Clear Channel’s WRAW (1340) this season, even though the station just flipped from oldies to Spanish hits for the rest of its broadcast day.

Radio People on the Move: Jared Fallon (aka “Jare Jordan”) is the new PD at WIOQ (102.1 Philadelphia), filling the gap left by Stan Priest’s exit from Q102 in January. Fallon comes to Philadelphia from Clear Channel’s WKFS (107.1) in Cincinnati – and the PD chair over there at “Kiss 107” gets the other end of the Pennsylvania transfer, being filled by Pittsburgh native Thomas Deelo. (He’s mostly been working down south in Panama City, Memphis and Tuscaloosa since leaving western Pennsylvania.)

Across the street at Radio One’s WRNB (100.3)/WPPZ (103.9), there’s a replacement for another departed PD. Filling Elroy Smith’s shoes at the cluster will be Darrick “Brown” Williams, inbound from Radio One’s Charlotte stations.

There’s a Radio One connection to a move in Pittsburgh, too: after less than a year as general manager of Tim Martz’ WAMO (660 Wilkinsburg, plus translator on 100.1), Gary Gunter has hit I-70 westbound, becoming VP/GM of Radio One’s WFUN-FM (95.5)/WHHL (104.1) in St. Louis. No replacement has been named yet at WAMO.

There’s some callsign news in that part of the state, too: Loren Mann has officially swapped calls at his pair of Pittsburgh-market AMs, making them WGBN (1360 McKeesport) and WMNY (1150 New Kensington). In Greensburg, mark down WJLW-LP as the new call for the new LPFM on 100.3.

The week’s lone station sale in the region was in Bellefonte, where silent WJVM (90.3) is changing hands from original permittee KC Club, Inc. (the local Knights of Columbus) to Voice of Divine Mercy, the newer nonprofit that’s actually been planning to operate the Catholic station. The sale price is listed as just $1,000, plus an LMA before closing; once WJVM signs on, which is expected to happen any day now, it will be affiliated with Pittsburgh-area Catholic outlet WAOB (106.7/860).

Translator moves around Scranton: Geos Communications’ W282BJ (104.3) wants to relocate from its current 22-watt facility just east of downtown to a 27-watt signal much higher up on Bald Mountain, west of downtown. The translator, which relays “Gem 104” from WZMF (730 Nanticoke), would also change frequency to 104.5, putting it co-channel with another “Gem” translator serving Wilkes-Barre.*

*Our NEW YORK news starts on Long Island, where we noted a weird little oddity a couple of weeks ago in much of the coverage of that strange stunt the WKJY (98.3 Hempstead) morning show pulled. Most of the reporting about that homophobic party RSVP that turned out to be phony emphasized that “station management” wasn’t aware of what morning hosts Steve Harper and Leanna Karlson were doing. It was odd because Harper himself was management, serving as the PD of “K98.3” – and we say “was” because he’s apparently about to lose that title. Jerry Barmash reports in TunedIn NYC that WKJY will announce today that Harper’s being replaced as PD by afternoon jock Jon Daniels. After serving a weeklong suspension, Harper and Karlson are back on the air with the morning show, and will apparently stay in place there.

*Just barely in time for the start of the season (and yes, Baseball on the Radio is coming soon here at NERW), the Mets and WOR (710) have finally picked a pre-game/post-game host. Seth Everett, who’s been doing sports on WINS (1010) and Fox Sports Radio, will lead into and out of the game broadcasts with Howie Rose and Josh Lewin; he’ll also host a sports-talk show in the evening hours when the Mets are off or rained out, and we assume he’ll contribute to a morning show if WOR ever gets one again.

The Mets have also added FM coverage of much of Long Island: they’ll be heard on the otherwise-religious “Hope FM” network based at WLIR (107.1 Hampton Bays) and five translators in Hauppauge, Selden, Manorville, Shirley and Plainview, as well as the HD2 of WBLI (106.1). Will there be more additions to the Mets network before the season starts?

wqht-thisishot97*In a world awash in reality TV, there have been surprisingly few shows set in radio stations. That’s about to change, thanks to VH1 and Emmis’ WQHT (97.1). They’re teaming up for a new reality show, “This is Hot 97,” which will debut on March 31. The show will feature Hot 97’s airstaff and behind-the-scenes crew, as well as the hip-hop artists who frequently visit the station. Will viewers want to see what really happens in a radio station’s hallways in 2014? (Or a reality-show version thereof?)

*New York Public Radio (WNYC/WQXR) is no stranger to big donations, but today it’s announcing the biggest one yet: a $10 million grant from the Jerome L. Greene Foundation that’s believed to be the biggest single gift ever made to a local public broadcaster. The Times reports most of the Greene money will be directed to new digital initiatives, including a groundbreaking new “Discover” feature on WNYC’s mobile app that will allow users to create customized playlists of WNYC content they can listen to even when they’re offline (say, in the subway). A portion of the gift will subsidize ticket prices at WNYC’s Greene Performance Space, which was endowed by an earlier $6 million gift. In all, the Greene foundation has now given $21 million to WNYC, including $5 million to acquire WQXR in 2009.

*Craig Fox already has plenty of FM on the tower behind his studios on West Kirkpatrick Street on the north side of Syracuse, and now he wants to add one more. Translator W237AY (95.3 Dewitt), which carries classic rock “Dinosaur” as a relay of WOLF-FM (105.1-HD3) and WNDR-FM (103.9 Mexico), is applying to move from its current site southeast of town on the WAQX (95.7 Manlius) tower to the Kirkpatrick Street tower, where it would run 99 watts instead of its present 250. (That Kirkpatrick Street site is normally the home of WOLF 1490, but it’s silent for the moment.)

Speaking of “Dinosaur,” it’s making some lineup changes: evening jock Peter Naughton was billed as a temporary host in that slot from day one a month ago, and now there’s a permanent host from 7-midnight: the syndicated Charlie Tuna show is now being heard at night. Dinosaur has also picked up Tuna’s all-70s Sunday night show, also from 7-midnight. Naughton is still on the air on Sundays from 10 AM-3 PM. In middays, Tony Fallico is also a temporary host, and Dinosaur is still looking for a permanent jock for that part-time gig.

wndr-dinosaurAnd will there be a baby Dinosaur soon? Fox’s WMBO (1340 Auburn) was stunting with all-Beatles at the same time as WNDR earlier this year, but it stayed “WBTL” when the Syracuse FMs went to Dinosaur. Now there’s word that WNDR is running the same “coming soon” promos with foot-stomping, tree-crunching noises that led to the launch of the Syracuse Dinosaur…so stay tuned.

There were no new LPFM grants in the Empire State last week, but two new callsigns: 105.1 in Greenwich will be WGRE-LP, while the Utica market’s 97.3 in Whitesboro will be WHIH-LP.

When Geoff Edwards died in Los Angeles, he was remembered (and rightly so) for his many years as a host of game shows such as “Jackpot!” But he had a prominent radio career as well – and before he was a popular personality at LA stations such as KMPC and KFI, he started out in Albany, where he worked at WOKO (1460) during his college years in the early 1950s. Edwards was 83 when he died in California on Wednesday.

*Almost all our NEW JERSEY news is about the 107.9 spot on the dial. In Manahawkin, translator W300AO has flipped from simulcasting parent station WJRZ (100.1) to a relay of sister station WRAT (95.9 Point Pleasant), extending the reach of the RAT’s rock format down the shore into Ocean County. To make it possible, WRAT is also now being carried on WJRZ’s HD2.

Over in Middlesex County, the application from “Fords Hispanic Community Radio” for an LPFM on 107.9 has been dismissed at the request of the applicant. This was one of the hundreds of applications from the Texas-based Hispanic Christian Community Network filing mill, and it’s not unreasonable to suspect that it asked for the dismissal to avoid increased FCC scrutiny into the filing practices of HCCN’s Cesar Guel. (Two other HCCN-prepared LPFM applications remain active in Hazlet – or “Hazler,” as the sloppily-prepared application called it – and Red Bank; as yet, none of HCCN’s hundreds of applications has actually been granted by the FCC, and more than a dozen are facing an FCC notice of inquiry looking for evidence that the purported applicants even actually exist.)

One bit of non-107.9 news: in Franklin Township, Om P. Tschand is transferring the CP for new translator W224CW (92.7) to Rahul Walia, and apparently not willingly: the transfer paperwork says it’s happening “to the extent required by court order.” The translator, to be built on the WMGQ (98.3) tower in New Brunswick, is currently listed as relaying WWFM (89.1 Trenton), but we’d expect that to change before it signs on.

*There aren’t many radio brands strong enough to come back for a second outing after being abandoned, but one of them is in CANADA‘s capital city, where “The Bear” returned to CKQB (106.9) in 2011, two years after then-owner Astral had abandoned the name as part of an attempt to roll out the “Virgin Radio” brand across its big-market FM signals. “Virgin,” a brand associated with top-40, never made much sense on a rock station, which is why the Bear was reborn.

ckqb-freshBut now the Bear appears to be on its way to a permanent hibernation, a result of the station’s spinoff to Corus as part of the larger Bell-Astral acquisition. The station’s airstaff is gone, with a notice on the website saying Corus plans to take it in a “fresh new direction.” As our content partners at RadioInsight.com have noted, that’s a tip that the next stop for 106.9 will be the “Fresh FM” hot AC format Corus is already using in other Canadian markets, including Hamilton and London. The new format is due to launch by the end of March; when it does, it will put 106.9 in direct competition with Rogers’ “Kiss” (CISS 105.3), Bell’s CJMJ (Majic 100.3) and Rogers’ CIHT (Hot 89.9) in what’s become one of the most crowded radio markets in the country.

In Tillsonburg, Ontario, the CBC has the go-ahead from the CRTC to put a new Radio 1 relay on the air. The signal at 88.7 will run 2.06 kW average/8.18 kW max DA/78.9 m, wedged in tightly against co-channel CIMX to the west in Windsor; it will relay CBCL (93.5 London), filling a gap between the London signal and the Leamington relay of Windsor’s CBEW.

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From the NERW Archives

Yup, we’ve been doing this a long time now, and so we’re digging back into the vaults for a look at what NERW was covering one, five, ten and – where available – fifteen years ago this week, or thereabouts.

Note that the column appeared on an erratic schedule in its earliest years as “New England Radio Watch,” and didn’t go to a regular weekly schedule until 1997.

One Year Ago: March 11, 2013

astral-bell*CANADA‘s biggest media deal in recent years isn’t going away easily. In October, after the CRTC denied Bell’s application to swallow Astral Media for C$3.38 billion, both companies promised they’d be back at the table with a new proposal.

As of last week, they’re now halfway back to the finish line after Canada’s Competition Bureau signed off on the revised plan, which is now in front of the CRTC for reconsideration. This time around, Bell and Astral have identified a buyer for at least some of the expanded list of stations they’re planning to spin off in order to stay under CRTC ownership caps.

The plan puts Corus in the buyer’s seat in Ottawa, where it will enter radio ownership with the purchase of CKQB (106.9 the Bear) and CJOT (99.7 EZ Rock), currently owned by Astral. The radio sales are part of a C$400 million spinoff to Corus that also includes several Canadian cable networks.

Bell and Astral also plan to put stations in four other big markets up for sale, including CHBM (Boom 97.3) and CFXJ (93.5 Flow FM) in Toronto. Boom is currently an Astral property, while Flow comes from the Bell portfolio.

And then there’s Montreal, where the original deal hit a bit of unwelcome PR when word got out that Bell proposed to convert its CKGM (690) from English-language sports to French-language sports. The CRTC denied that application, and Bell’s not going to try going down that road again; instead, it’s now promising to keep CKGM doing sports in English, provided that the merged company gets a waiver allowing it to hold four English-language signals in Montreal, where it would ordinarily be capped at three. If the CRTC doesn’t go along this time, Bell says it will close down CKGM and keep Astral’s three existing stations, CJAD (800), CJFM (Virgin 95.9) and CHOM (97.7).

*In Fredericton, New Brunswick, Newcap has pulled the plug on “Fred FM” at CFRK (92.3), replacing the classic hits with top-40 as “Hot 92.3″ as of noon on March 2. Joe, Benny and Jay lead off the new “Hot” lineup with the “Morning Hot Tub,” with additional airstaff yet to be named. (Also still forthcoming is the format and staffing for CFRK’s soon-to-debut sister station, CIHI 93.1.)

*Much of our NEW YORK news this week centers around the state capital, starting with the price tag we can now put on Hubbard’s purchase of WNYA (Channel 51) from Venture Technologies Group. Hubbard will pay $2.3 million to pair the MyNetworkTV affiliate with its NBC station in the market, WNYT (Channel 13), a move that will require an FCC “failing station” waiver to get around the duopoly rules. Venture tells the Commission that WNYA has been consistently losing money, and its documentation shows annual losses in the half-million dollar range in recent years. Hubbard says it will add local news content if it’s allowed to acquire WNYA; Venture, for its part, says it’s tried to shop the station to buyers outside the market for several years now without any takers.

wjkeJust up the Thruway in Saratoga Springs, we’d told you a few months back that WQAR (101.3 Stillwater) had requested a return to its previous calls WJKE – and just as predicted, that also meant a return at the beginning of March to its old identity, “101.3 the Jockey.” The move away from “Star 101” to a more locally-focused sound (would “The Jockey” make sense anywhere other than the horse-racing mecca that is Saratoga?) is the first big move for WJKE’s new owner, Empire Broadcasting, which bought it and three AM signals from Ernie Anastos last fall. We don’t expect it to be the last big move for Empire, which is helmed by longtime state broadcasters’ association chairman Joe Reilly.

Five Years Ago: March 9, 2009

It looks like when it comes to the end of New York’s “K-Rock” (WXRK 92.3), “sometime soon” will be Wednesday afternoon at 5. Opie & Anthony apparently did their last show on the station Monday morning, and the 92.3now.com website is now up and running with a countdown clock. Stay tuned…

The sudden closure of the CONNECTICUT School of Broadcasting’s 26 campuses nationwide came as a shock to many in the broadcasting industry on Wednesday – and as even more of a shock to the students, just days from graduation, who’d paid $12,000 in hopes that the school, more recently known as the “CSB School of Broadcasting,” would launch them into – as CSB’s website offered – “a great career in broadcasting.” That might be a pipe dream for anyone in our industry these days, but it’s now especially bad news for CSB students and alumni, who’d been promised lifetime access to the school’s studios (including locations in Needham, Mass.; Hasbrouck Heights and Cherry Hill, NJ; Westbury, NY; Pittsburgh; Stratford, Connecticut and the original location in Farmington, Connecticut) and its alumni network.

CSB’s locations were shuttered before classes started Thursday morning, after the school’s bank accounts were seized by lender PNC Financial, leaving the school with no choice – it said – but to close down and file for bankruptcy. And without an active school enrolling them, many former CSB students are apparently finding that they’re no longer eligible for the internships they were doing at radio and TV stations across the region, adding insult to injury. Dick Robinson, the veteran Hartford broadcaster who founded CSB back in 1964 and sold the business to Credit Suisse three years ago, tells WVIT-TV that he hopes to buy the Farmington location back from CSB’s owners and reopen it under a new name. (That Farmington site, by the way, is the old studio location of WRCH, and still home to the transmitter of WLAT 910.)

We start our NEW YORK report with an “ending” – two weeks after Sinclair’s upstate stations (Fox affiliates WUTV 29 Buffalo, WUHF 31 Rochester and WSYT 68 Syracuse and My affiliate WNYS 43 Syracuse, as well as Pittsburgh’s WPMY 22 and WPGH 53) ended regular programming on their analog signals, those stations pulled the plug on the “nightlight” loop and silenced their analog transmitters for good at 11:59:59 PM on Tuesday (March 3). Having been parked in front of the old 25″ Zenith when WUHF signed on for the first time back in January 1980, NERW couldn’t resist the opportunity to be there at WUHF’s Pinnacle Hill transmitter site when the station left the airwaves.
It was rather unceremonious – viewers at home, if there were any left, simply saw the nightlight loop cut to static – but it’s another step into the digital future, and we’ll be back up on Pinnacle Hill in June when the market’s other stations shut down their analog signals.

It’s more than just the analog signal going away at Syracuse’s CBS affiliate; as we reported in an update to last week’s NERW, Granite Broadcasting cut the jobs of some 40 staffers at WTVH (Channel 5) after Monday morning’s newscast, as WTVH entered into an LMA with Barrington Broadcasting’s NBC affiliate, WSTM (Channel 3), under which WSTM will handle most aspects of WTVH’s operations.

Here’s how it played out in the short term: WTVH’s noon newscast on Monday was replaced by an infomercial, but at 5 PM, “CBS 5 News” was back on the air, after a fashion, with anchor Michael Benny, among the few remaining WTVH staffers, looking rather uncomfortable as he read the press-release verbiage about the merger, with only a token mention at the very end about the job cuts involved. (The job cuts, unsurprisingly, were the lead story and then some on competitor WSYR-TV and in the Syracuse paper, which put WTVH’s news shutdown at the center of the front page the next day.)

What followed – and what’s been airing on WTVH at 5, 6 and 11 all week long – was essentially a rewritten version of the same newscast being seen on WSTM in the same slots, with WSTM’s weather and sports anchors and field reports from WSTM staffers. During the morning and noon slots, WTVH has simply been simulcasting WSTM’s newscasts, albeit with WTVH graphics.

That’s a temporary situation, it appears; Granite has entered into similar LMAs in other markets (most notably Fort Wayne and Duluth, but also Peoria, where Granite’s WEEK took over operations last week at Barrington’s WHOI), and we’d expect the WSTM/WTVH joint operation to follow that pattern: a common brand (a la “Indiana’s News Center”) for both stations, with some newscasts in alternating timeslots – say, 5 and 6 PM on one station, 5:30 and 7 PM on the other.

Ten Years Ago: March 8, 2004

Country fans in Kingston, Ontario, CANADA have been without a local source for their favorite music for a few weeks, ever since Corus flipped CFMK (96.3 Kingston) from “Country 96” to “Joe FM.” That will change this morning, though, when Clancy-Mance Communications drops WBDR (102.7 Cape Vincent NY) from the three-station top-40 simulcast (“The Border”) that also includes WBDI (106.7 Copenhagen/Watertown NY) and WBDB (92.7 Ogdensburg NY). In place of “The Border,” 102.7 will become “Kix 102.7,” playing country music programmed to the Canadian side of the St. Lawrence River. Kix will compete for Kingston ears with Regent’s “Froggy,” WFRG (97.5 Watertown), which puts a huge signal over Kingston but hasn’t had an active sales force there for a while. Clancy-Mance, by contrast, has been a player in the Kingston ad market with the Border, which was splitting its ad load and running Canadian ads on 102.7 while targeting U.S. listeners with separate ads on 106.7 and 92.7.

The Mohawk Valley of upstate NEW YORK gets a new standards station this morning, thanks to Lloyd Roach’s Route 81 group. After several days of simulcasting classic rocker WRCK (107.3 Utica), WKLL (94.9 Frankfort) will launch today as WTLB-FM, running in tandem with standards WTLB (1310 Utica). Down the Thruway a bit, the former WBUG (1570 Amsterdam) turns out to have flipped to talk – those new WVTL calls stand for “Valley’s Talk Leader.”

In the Finger Lakes, we hear George Kimble’s Radio Group closed Friday on its purchase of WFLR (1570 Dundee) and WFLR-FM (95.9 Dundee); more on this one next week.

The new left-leaning “Air America” talk network landed a home in market #1 this week. It’ll be carried on Inner City Broadcasting’s WLIB (1190 New York), displacing the station’s current talk programming aimed at the city’s black community. Air America’s studios are located on the same floor of the same building as WLIB, and it appears that Inner City may lease or sell other stations it owns (including, perhaps, WHAT 1340 in Philadelphia and KVTO 1400 Berkeley CA?) to Air America as the network finds its legs. (NERW wonders: will Air America keep the “LIB”eral calls on 1190, or will it realize that those calls carry a very different heritage in New York from the image it’s seeking?)

One CONNECTICUT note: Hartford’s WKSS (95.7) is trying to fill a bit of the void left behind when sister station WMRQ (104.1) flipped from modern rock to R&B WPHH (Power 104) last year. It’s now breaking from its usual top 40 each weeknight from 10 PM until 2 AM to play modern rock as “Channel 957.”

Smooth jazz came to central PENNSYLVANIA last week, as Hall Communications pulled the plug on the oldies at “Big 92.7” WHBO (92.7 Starview PA) last Monday, replacing it with “Smooth Jazz 92.7” under new calls WSJW. And WHBO wasn’t the only oldies station to disappear from the dials around Harrisburg – over in Carlisle, Route 81 dropped the 50s and 60s oldies it inherited from Citadel at WHYL (960), replacing them with a locally-programmed standards format starting Saturday morning (March 6). Route 81 also launched a morning show at WNAK (730 Nanticoke) and WNAK-FM (94.3 Carbondale), putting market veteran Terry McNulty back on the air.

Some call and format shuffling out in Johnstown: Forever moves the news-talk format of WNTJ (1490) down the dial to replace classic country at WLYE (850 Johnstown) and WVSC (990 Somerset), changing WLYE’s call to WNTJ and WVSC to WNTW. 1490 goes sports as WSPO, a callsign previously heard on 850 (which most old-timers in the market probably still think of as WJAC…)

Fifteen Years Ago: March 10, 1999

What could we have been thinking when we laughed at Boston’s little nor’easter last week? How soon we forget that winter’s far from finished up here in Rochester in March, as we dig out from more than two feet of snow that fell in just a few hours Thursday morning. Few broadcast effects to report from this one; a quick scan of the dial Thursday afternoon found nobody off the air, WHAM (1180) dumping out of the satellite (Laura Schlesinger and Rush) to offer cancellations, storm news, and local talk, and WRSB (1310 Canandaigua) simulcasting former sister station WCGR (1550) instead of new sister station WASB (1590 Brockport). Was WASB(AM) on the air? Beats us; we were out at the eastern edge of the county, where WAUB in Auburn dominates the channel. WASB-FM (105.5) was indeed on the air, with the usual unlistenable whistles and hum on the audio. More snow’s expected this weekend…we can hardly wait.

We’ll kick off the rest of the week’s news in central MAINE, where the country format from WKCG (101.3 Augusta) moved on schedule Monday morning (3/1) to WCTB (93.5 Fairfield) and WCME (96.7 Boothbay Harbor) as “Kicks Country.” That much we expected…but check this out: This one’s a physical move as well, with WKCG’s jocks moving from the WABK/WFAU studio on Northern Ave. in Gardiner to the old WCTB digs (and WTOS/WSKW/WHQO’s) on Middle Rd. in Skowhegan. As for WCTB’s old AC “River” format, Cumulus has moved it — and its staff — down to Gardiner and the 101.3 signal, where it debuted Monday morning as “Star 101.” Morning guy Mike Violette tells the Waterville Central Maine Morning Sentinel that he found out about the change with just a day’s notice, when he returned from vacation. He says co-host Eric Leimbach will join him on 101.3 when he returns from sick leave.

But wait…there’s more! Cumulus says it plans to sell WHQO (107.9 Skowhegan), which simulcasts the sports format of WSKW (1160 Skowhegan), by year’s end. The “Score” may not vanish from FM, though; market manager Tim Gatz says Cumulus has another FM in the works to carry the format. NERW suspects WIGY (97.5 Madison) is the likely candidate.

Moving towards Portland, we hear WCLZ-FM (98.9 Brunswick) is mainstreaming its format as Fuller-Jeffrey moves it into new Portland studios, taking on more of a modern AC sound — and maybe “modern” is the wrong word, since we hear ‘CLZ listeners now get Eagles tunes, among others, on what used to be a AAA outlet. The most recent playlist on the WCLZ Web site doesn’t look to have been updated since December.

In MASSACHUSETTS, there’s a new talk lineup at WRKO (680 Boston) following the departure of the Two Chicks (with Chick Leslie Gold saying that she chose to leave because she was doing “all the work”): Tai moves from his old 10-1 spot to a four hour gig from 7-11 PM nightly. Filling that 11-1 spot have been substitute hosts, with Andy Moes rumored to be getting the nod for the permanent job.

Out in Worcester, Heirwaves is selling WNEB (1230) to Great Commission Broadcasting, the company that leases time on WJLT (1060 Natick) from Alex Langer for its Christian contemporary “J-Light” format. Heirwaves bought WNEB from Bob Bittner in late 1997 and has been running its own CC format as “Solid Rock 1230” since then. NERW will be unsurprised to see J-Light move completely to 1230 from 1060 before long, based on what we’ve been hearing about things in Langer’s studios.

New calls for a southern VERMONT radio station this week, as WVAY (100.7 Wilmington) drops the calls it’s had since it signed on in the late eighties to become WMTT (we’re guessing “The Mountain” to go along with sister station WRSI Greenfield MA, “The River.”) The FCC is also listing an ownership change for WMTT and W284AB in nearby Jamaica, from Dynacom to Border Broadcasting — but that’s all within Jeff Shapiro’s corporate family, if we’re not mistaken, and the WRSI/WVAY website shows no changes for now. A quick check of the station’s RealAudio feed (gotta love it…) has us listening to an ID that plays up “18 years of musical diversity” on WRSI and then mumbles “WMTT Wilmington” at the end…

Up north at Capstar’s Burlington group, three staffers said goodbye this week. Operations manager Ken MacKenzie leaves WEZF, WCPV, and WXPS/WEAV to become a consultant, WEZF morning man Jon Brooks goes across town to Hall’s oldies WKOL (105.1 Plattsburgh-Burlington), and station manager Ken Barlow is heading down I-89 to Barre, to become GM at WSNO (1450) and WORK (107.1).

A CONNECTICUT TV station is still getting a new owner, just not the one originally announced. Paxson will now sell WBPT (Channel 43) in Bridgeport to Shop at Home, the original sale to Cuchifritos Communications having fallen through. NERW is registering editorial disappointment on this one; it’s not that we were that excited about the plans for Spanish-language home shopping, but we were hoping to have the chance to use the words “Cuchifritos Communications” more often in print…