In this week’s issue… Towers collapse in western Mass. – Shannon gets a sidekick, loses a syndicator – Format surprise in Ottawa – RI Hall of Famers named – Plus: Baseball on the Radio – the Minor Leagues – And read to the end for details on our big NAB Show Radio Gathering next Tuesday night!

By SCOTT FYBUSH

Towers down on Florida Mountain (photo: Gillian Jones/The Berkshire Eagle)
Towers down on Florida Mountain (photo: Gillian Jones/The Berkshire Eagle)

*It’s been a brutal winter for most of us across NERW-land, with snowstorm following on snowstorm well into what really should be spring by now. Until this past weekend, though, all those winter storms had caused not much more than inconvenience to broadcasters. But early Sunday morning, the weather claimed two towers in western MASSACHUSETTS, silencing two FM signals and wreaking havoc with a third FM signal that was just days away from signing on for the first time.

It happened on Florida Mountain, up by the famous hairpin curve where Route 2 (the Mohawk Trail) drops down from the Berkshire hills into North Adams. At about 2:30 in the morning, some combination of ice, rain, wind and heavy loading sent the 150-foot self-supporting tower holding cellular and public safety antennas and the antennas of translator W266AW (101.1 North Adams) and the new WNNI (98.9 Adams) toppling, and that tower’s collapse snagged the guy wires of the neighboring guyed tower of WUPE-FM (100.1 North Adams), bringing that tower down as well.

WNNI's antenna (photo: Paul Thurst/EngineeringRadio.us)
WNNI’s antenna (photo: Paul Thurst/EngineeringRadio.us)

Gamma Broadcasting’s WUPE-FM (formerly WMNB-FM) was by far the oldest FM up here, having signed on back in 1964. In 2006, public station WFCR (88.5 Amherst) put W266AW on the air from the self-supporting tower, and in the last few weeks engineers were busy building out WNNI, the latest link in the news-and-information chain based at WFCR’s sister station WNNZ (640 Westfield).

On his EngineeringRadio.us blog, our friend Paul Thurst had just posted some photos and a story about the filtering he was installing to prevent any intermodulation products between WNNI and WUPE-FM. WFCR chief engineer Charles Dubé reports he was only a week or so away from signing WNNI on for the first time, a plan that’s obviously changed now. (Late on Sunday, Paul also posted his own pictures of the collapse on his blog, as well as a WWLP-TV news story about the incident.)

Dubé says WFCR will try to restore translator service quickly from a temporary facility and then figure out how to get WNNI rebuilt and on the air. The construction permit for the 2.6 kW/406′ class A signal runs through August, and in circumstances like this one the FCC is usually willing to “toll,” or extend, the construction permit to give broadcasters a chance to recover from disaster.

As for WUPE-FM, Thurst says a temporary signal could hit the air as early as late Monday; in the meantime, it’s still simulcasting (at least during the day) on WUPE (1110 Pittsfield), as well as streaming – but not if you’re trying to use a cell network in the area. These towers provided much of the wireless infrastructure for northern Berkshire County, and residents without landline phones or internet connections also found themselves scrambling for connectivity on Sunday. (You can see the WUPE-FM site in better days over at Mike Fitzpatrick’s NECRAT.us site.)

We’ll be following this story closely as investigators figure out what brought these towers down, and how to replace them.

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ckqb-jump*In CANADA‘s capital city, today is the relaunch of Corus’ CKQB (106.9 Ottawa) – but it won’t be “Fresh 106.9,” as had been widely expected. Even before Corus officially took over “The Bear” from the Bell/Astral merger, we knew the rock format was going to be replaced by an upbeat contemporary format.

Whether “Fresh” was a deliberate smokescreen or just a placeholder, it’s not the new nickname that 106.9 will be using starting at 8:00 this morning. Instead, our content partners at RadioInsight picked up on Corus’ registration of several “Jump” domains and social media handles.

The new “Jump” enters a very crowded landscape of  top-40 and hot AC radio in the market, including Rogers’ CISS (Kiss 105.3), Bell’s CJMJ (Majic 100.3) and Newcap’s CIHT (Hot 89.9) – and that’s just on the English-language side of this busy market!

*In Halifax and vicinity, a winter storm early last week blasted some areas with winds of over 100 miles per hour. There’s no word of any permanent tower damage, but power outages knocked Rogers’ news-talk CJNI (95.7) and other stations off the air at the height of the storm.

And there’s very belated word of the death of an important figure in southern Ontario radio. Jean Caine partnered with her husband Howard to put CHWO (1250 Oakville) on the air in 1956, pioneering local radio in the booming suburbs outside Toronto. After Howard Caine’s death in 1967, Jean Caine stayed at the helm of White Oaks Communications, which eventually grew under her son Michael to become a three-station cluster. Among those three stations was CHWO’s later incarnation at 740 on the dial, sold off a few years ago to Moses Znaimer and now known as CFZM. White Oaks retained its other two stations, CJMR (1320 Mississauga) and CJYE (1250 Oakville, the old CHWO facility), and Jean Caine remained involved with the company right up until her death January 8 at age 90.

*In NEW YORK, it’s a week of shoes about to drop – and most of them appear to be coming from the plentiful feet of Cumulus.

Take, for instance, the curious case of Scott Shannon and the True Oldies Channel. When Shannon abruptly departed Cumulus’ WPLJ (95.5 New York), only to show up a few weeks later at CBS Radio’s WCBS-FM (101.1 New York), his voicetracks just kept playing over in another corner of Cumulus-land. Initially, it appeared Shannon’s True Oldies Channel was actually going to keep on going via Cumulus’ radio network operation and a network of affiliates that includes WPLJ’s very own HD2 subchannel.

trueoldies-shannonThe idea didn’t seem entirely ridiculous – Cumulus and CBS are partners, after all, on the CBS Sports Radio network that originates just one floor below Shannon’s new WCBS-FM studio on Hudson Street. But given how thoroughly True Oldies Channel is associated with Shannon, whose voicetracks are heard there 24 hours a day on weekdays, it didn’t make a lot of sense, either.

Now Cumulus has clarified the situation: at the end of June, it’s pulling the plug on True Oldies Channel and replacing it with a new all-oldies service called “Good Time Oldies.” (Among the talent on the new service, the first to launch under now-Cumulus-owned Westwood One, is John Summers, now at CBS Radio’s KLUV in Dallas but well-known here in NERW-land for his early radio days in his native Pittsburgh, where he started at the old WBZZ.)

Shannon owns the rights to the “True Oldies Channel” name and says he intends to keep the service going in a new form once it leaves the Cumulus fold. Can he bring an affiliate base with him? It’s a pretty good bet that Cumulus’ own WARM (590 Scranton PA) will move to the new Cumulus service, as will WPLJ’s HD2.

weok-wall-oldiesMost of the rest of the current TOC lineup in the region consists of smaller signals: Binnie Media’s WLVP (870 Gorham)/WLAM (1470 Auburn) and Mountain Wireless’ WCTB (93.5 Fairfield-Skowhegan) in Maine; in New York, Townsquare’s WALL (1340 Middletown)/WEOK (1390 Poughkeepsie), Media One’s WKSN (1340 Jamestown), Mindy Barstein’s WNRS (1420 Herkimer) and a very recent addition, Cranesville Block’s WCSS (1490 Amsterdam), which just flipped to True Oldies Channel last month; in Pennsylvania, Forever’s WHUN (106.3 Mount Union/Huntingdon) and WCCL (101.7 Central City/Johnstown), Main Line’s WCHA (800 Chambersburg) and Cantroair’s WTZN (1310 Troy)/WTTC (1550 Towanda). We’ll be keeping an ear out to see which way these stations decide to go as they choose their post-TOC formats.

Meanwhile in Shannon-land, his WCBS-FM morning show added a new, but very familiar, voice on Thursday. Patty Steele worked with Shannon at WHTZ (Z100) and at WPLJ, and now she’s taken the spot on the CBS-FM morning show that had belonged to Debbie Rodriguez. Steele’s most recent gig had been in the newsroom at WOR (710).

Speaking of WOR, it has a new evening show to go along with the start of the Mets’ regular season tonight. Pete McCarthy will host “The WOR Sports Zone,” which will run from 6-9 PM when the Mets aren’t playing and will be the pre- and post-game show on Mets game days. McCarthy had been working for SNY and for MLB.com.

*Back to Cumulus and those additional dropping shoes: there’s a loud buzzing from the rumor mill (and not just the usual perpetual “sky is falling” sources) about significant job cuts within the company as the first quarter comes to a close today. The target this time appears to be the duplication of resources between Cumulus’ existing radio networks operation and the Westwood One networks that are now being merged into the Cumulus operation. We’ll let you know here and on our Facebook and Twitter feeds as soon as there’s any news to confirm on that front.

We’re also tracking some credible reports about serious cutbacks coming to Univision Radio. That group has only a small presence in the region – WXNY (96.3), WQBU (92.7 Garden City) and WADO (1280) in New York City – and its problems really stem from the other side of the country, where the dismissal of top-rated Los Angeles-based morning host “Piolin” led to a big drop in revenue.

WADO was also in the news last week for its new deal to carry Yankees baseball in Spanish; while the team was on WADO last year, too, this season the games are being produced by CBS Radio’s WFAN, with Rickie Ricardo, late of the Phillies’ Spanish-language radio team, joining Francisco Rivera.

wqbu-mamiAnd just as we’re getting ready to put this column to bed early Monday morning, sure enough, there’s news of a format change at WQBU, which drops its Spanish tropical “Mami 92.7” format to become the new fulltime New York home of Univision’s national Univision America Spanish news-talk format. Some of the network’s shows were getting cleared on WADO, but they’ll all now get a home on the FM side of the dial at 92.7, which becomes the first Spanish-language spoken-word FM signal in the city.

*Over at Emmis, tonight is debut night for “This Is Hot 97,” the new VH1 reality series shot at WQHT (97.1). The new show intends to “give viewers a look inside this iconic radio brand” to show the station’s on-air personalities and celebrities interact within the studios and offices of the station. Our sister site, RadioInsight Community, will be live blogging the premiere with special guest DJ Grooves. Grooves, the former Music Director of Wired 96.5 Philadelphia currently hosts and distributes a nationally syndicated weekend mixshow. Join us at 10:30 PM (ET) for the conversation!

*It’s not quite broadcast, but NOAA Weather Radio is a pretty important service, which is why it’s been a big deal that New York City’s KWO35 (162.55 MHz) has been off the air since last summer. The station was silenced after a new VHF transmitter went on the air somewhere near its antenna atop 30 Rockefeller Plaza, creating a mixing product that interfered with VHF marine channel 16 at 156.8 MHz. After experimenting with filters, NOAA decided to move the station, and it’s now up and running from a site described as “near Times Square,” which we think is the 4 Times Square broadcast facility.

*We’re getting a better sense of who might really be in the hunt for the long-dormant AM construction permits being offered by the FCC in its upcoming Auction 84, set to begin May 6. This is an unusual “closed auction,” limited only to participants who’d already applied for the new AM channels being offered in the auction.

fcc-logo-largeAmong those channels is the Rockland County 1700 kHz facility that was opened up in a special filing window at the behest of several powerful U.S. House members. Of the four applicants for that channel, only one – S&B Broadcasting – was listed in a FCC release last week as having a “completed” application, ready to participate in the auction when it gets underway. The other three applicants – Polnet, Talkline and Alexander Broadcasting – are listed as “incomplete,” but have until April 7 to fill in the gaps in their applications if they still want to take part in the auction.

(The other two NERW-land facilities in the auction are in Pennsylvania: 850 in Enola, near Harrisburg, and 1450 in Montoursville, near Williamsport. In Enola, Ted Schober’s application is complete, while Hill & Glover’s is not; in Montoursville, Smith and Fitzgerald and Austin Kennedy LLC are both ready with complete applications.)

*Moving up the Hudson Valley, ESPN Radio remains on the air even after losing its AM home on WGNY (1220 Newburgh). The sports network has relocated to W247AW (97.3 Poughkeepsie), which is fed in turn by WGNY-FM (98.9 Rosendale)’s HD3.

While we focus most of our attention on Baseball on the Radio (keep reading for our minor-league coverage!), there’s a new deal for Army football and other sports on the radio, too. The Army Athletic Association handles its broadcast rights through Learfield Sports, and Learfield has just entered into a five-year deal with Pamal to provide coverage of the Black Knights up and down the Hudson Valley.

wbnr-wlna-realcountry-smPamal’s WLNA (1420 Peekskill)/WBNR (1260 Beacon), which just flipped from talk to classic country, will be the new flagship for West Point, carrying not only Army football but also men’s basketball, women’s basketball, men’s hockey and select baseball and men’s lacrosse games. Army football will also air on sister stations WBPM (92.9 Saugerties) and WROW (590 Albany).

At WDST (100.1 Woodstock), Katie DiMartile exited her midday airshift and her job as music and promotions director on Friday, with the existing staff picking up those duties for now.

*In Utica, the Smith Broadcasting era has ended at WKTV (Channel 2), and new owner Heartland Media wasted no time changing out not only the signage on the WKTV studios but also the general manager within. Steve Doerr is out, and station manager/news director Steve McMurray has been promoted to GM at the NBC/CW affiliate. He’s been with WKTV since 2002, when he moved down Smith Hill from competitor WUTR (Channel 20).

It’s the end of a (very small) era in Syracuse, where Nexstar has returned the license of W07BA (Channel 7). The 16-watt translator was licensed way back in 1969 to fill in some shadowing in the main signal of then-WNYS-TV (Channel 9) on the south side of Syracuse. Channel 9, now WSYR-TV, apparently no longer needed the little analog signal, and as of last Monday it’s been cancelled.

It’s also the end of a weekend radio era at WSYR (570/106.9), where the Clear Channel station has cancelled two long-running shows. George Kilpatrick, the lone progressive voice on the otherwise-conservative talker, did his last Sunday morning show yesterday, though he’ll still be heard on sister urban outlet WHEN (Power 620); a day earlier, the station pulled the plug on “The Weeder’s Digest,” the Saturday gardening show Terry Ettinger had hosted for 25 years.

In Buffalo, a former radio talker is the latest media person running for public office: Kathy Weppner made a name for herself as “Kathy from Williamsville,” going from frequent caller on WBEN (930) to weekend host. Now she’s running for Congress as the Republican challenger to veteran Democrat Brian Higgins, a long-shot race in a district that’s very heavily Democratic.

(We’ve been remiss, too, in failing to note the official launch earlier this month of longtime WHEC-TV 10 anchor Rich Funke’s GOP campaign for New York State Senate, in a swing district east of Rochester that’s now held by Democrat Ted O’Brien.)

*In MASSACHUSETTS, John Verrilli is out as news director at Boston’s WBZ-TV (Channel 4) after five years at the CBS O&O. Despite the network’s top prime-time ratings, channel 4’s newscasts have remained near the bottom of the ratings. Assistant ND Sarah Burke is running the newsroom for now.

For almost four decades now, the FCC has maintained a strict policy of not considering programming content when granting license renewals, and so even the folks behind the challenge being filed against WGBH (89.7 Boston)’s renewal acknowledge they won’t get anywhere with the Commission. But a small group of fans of the jazz and folk music WGBH used to run at night and on weekends want to be heard, and they say WGBH has been ignoring their ongoing pleas to bring their music back. The “Committee for Community Access” also argues that WGBH’s decision to exile the last of its music programming, its daytime classical format, to the rimshot signal of WCRB (99.5 Lowell) should somehow disqualify the license from being renewed.

rirhof*The RHODE ISLAND Radio Hall of Fame has named its latest class of inductees, led off by former WPRO PD Tom Cuddy, who parlayed his youthful success in Providence to a run as PD of New York’s WABC (770) and WPLJ (95.5) and his current job programming WOR (710) there. The class of 2014 also includes longtime PD/air talent Rick Everett, newsman Dave Fallon (now at Rhode Island Public Radio), Boston jock (and onetime part-owner of Woonsocket’s WNRI) Paul Perry, the late WHIM engineer Pappy Philbrook, easy listening programmer Tony Rizzini and performer Saucy Sylvia. Longtime sales and business manager Janice Skelly (WLKW, WSNE) will receive the Shepard Award and WPRO-FM (92.3) will be named Broadcaster of the Year at the 2014 ceremony, to be held at Twin River in Lincoln on May 8.

*The demise of what was once the Ocean State’s most powerful AM station is one step closer this week: tomorrow, the license of WALE (990 Greenville) expires – and licensee Cumbre Communications appears to be the only Ocean State broadcaster not to have filed for license renewal as part of the current eight-year renewal cycle.

That’s not really a surprise: WALE has been off the air now for several years, and at last account the power had been turned off at its six-tower transmitter site in Burrillville. Under Federal law, a station that’s silent for a full year automatically loses its license. If Cumbre had filed a renewal application, it would have had to answer the question of whether WALE had been silent for the 12 months before renewal time, and there’s no way it could have answered truthfully and won a renewal.

The 990 facility, originally WLKW, has been rather a cursed one for a while now: previous licensee North American Broadcasting ended up filing for bankruptcy before selling WALE to Cumbre in 2003 for $1 million, and Cumbre ran the station for less than a year before filing for bankruptcy itself.

If 990 is really gone, some opportunities open up for other stations around the region to make some technical improvements – but WALE must first be formally deleted before any of those applications can be filed.

wmur-60th*NEW HAMPSHIRE‘s first TV station celebrated a big anniversary last week. WMUR (Channel 9) signed on from an old mansion at 1819 Elm Street on March 28, 1954, and 60 years later it marked the occasion with an hourlong special taking viewers inside its current state-of-the-art newsroom.

The Hearst-owned ABC affiliate, which dominates its state in a way few other stations can, has a page up with historic video and interviews with station alumni, and we’re hoping the full special gets posted there soon, too.

*A Boston weekend radio staple has a new home on the Seacoast: Barry Scott’s “Lost 45s” is adding Townsquare’s “Shark” (WSAK 102.1 Hampton/WSHK 105.3 Kittery ME) to its affiliate lineup, though parts of the area can already hear the show on flagship WROR (105.7) out of Boston.

*There’s a new simulcast in MAINE, where Allan Weiner’s WXME (780 Monticello) is now spending most of the day rebroadcasting WHVW (950 Hyde Park NY), the quirky little Hudson Valley AM station run by Weiner’s longtime radio partner J.P. Ferraro.

*In CONNECTICUT, public broadcaster WSHU (91.1 Fairfield) could soon have a spiffy new home. Licensee Sacred Heart University wants to turn the station’s current studio building into a parking lot, but it’s proposing to replace it with a new 20,000 square foot building on the southeastern edge of the campus. The three-story building would house the campus public safety department on the ground floor, WSHU studios and technical facilities on the second floor and WSHU offices on the top floor.

On TV, LIN’s WTNH (Channel 8) is pulling the plug on its 7 AM newscast on sister station WCTX (Channel 59, aka “My 9.”) WCTX will carry a simulcast of WTNH’s newscast in the 6 AM hour, and its weekday 10 PM newscast will expand from 30 minutes to 65 minutes, ending at 11:05 PM.

*In PENNSYLVANIA, Spike Eskin gets the nod as program director of CBS Radio’s WIP-FM (94.1)/WIP (610), moving up from interim PD to fill the gap left by Jeff Sottolano’s move from Philadelphia to CBS corporate in New York. Eskin is a second-generation sports guy, the son of veteran sports reporter Howard Eskin, and he’s been working for CBSPhilly.com as well as for WIP and its CBS sister stations.

Over at Beasley’s WRDW-FM (Wired 96.5), midday host Casey has moved on after nine years with the station, initially in mornings. No replacement has been named yet.

Fox has been aggressive in rolling out digital replacement translators to augment the DTV reach of its main signals, and it’s been granted a construction permit for a 15-kilowatt signal on channel 38 in Allentown, to relay WTXF (Channel 29/RF 42) from Phladelphia. The new signal will transmit from the tower farm on East Rock Road, south of Allentown.

*There’s a fascinating fight brewing at the low end of the Pittsburgh radio dial, where a proposed low-power FM signal is squaring off against a commercial translator construction permit and, now, against a legacy class D noncommercial FM as well.

The LPFM applicant is Tri Borough Communications of North Versailles, east of Pittsburgh, and its application to operate on 92.3 drew an informal objection from a group identifying itself as “Tube City Community Public Radio.” That, confusingly enough, is not the well-established community media group that’s been around since 1996 as Tube City Community Media – but its petition did come from the same DC lawyer who happens to represent Broadcast Communications, the commercial broadcaster that owns WKHB (620 Irwin) and WKFB (770 Jeannette), as well as the construction permit for W221CX (92.1 Irwin), which can’t really coexist with that 92.3 LPFM if it’s granted.

wptsThere’s been a complicated dance of filings going on for the past month among the real Tube City group, the “other” Tube City, which has renamed itself, and Tri Borough itself. Now the fight has been joined by the University of Pittsburgh, which runs 16-watt WPTS-FM (92.1 Pittsburgh) from its “Cathedral of Learning” in Pittsburgh’s Oakland neighborhood. As a class D station (the last, in fact, to have been licensed by the FCC back in 1984), WPTS isn’t protected from much when it comes to interference. It’s already been displaced once, two decades ago, from its original spot at 98.5 on the dial. Now it’s arguing that a clause in the FCC’s LPFM rules requires new LPFMs to protect class D stations like WPTS as though they were class A signals, which would rule out a new 92.3 out in North Versailles.

We’ll follow up on this story as the flurry of filings continues…but it’s a reminder, at the very least, that after all these years, the FCC still hasn’t really figured out once and for all how to deal with those legacy class D FM signals that still dot the dial around the region.

*Just one other bit of LPFM action: the new Montgomery County emergency signal on 92.9 in Upper Gwynedd will be WEMK-LP.

In Martinsburg, WWBJ (1110) is getting a translator. Owner Martinsburg Broadcasting is paying Matthew Lightner $27,500 for W276AS (103.1), which had been carrying WJSM-FM (92.7 Martinsburg).

*It’s time for the second installment of our look at Baseball on the Radio for the 2014 season, and as always we start our look at the AAA International League with our hometown team, the Rochester Red Wings. While we hope for something better than status quo on the field, it’s absolutely status quo in the booth, with Josh Whetzel in his 12th season, and status quo on the airwaves, with Clear Channel’s WHTK (1280) carrying everything except a dozen or so weekday day games, which are once again on WYSL (1040 Avon).At the end of the 2013 season, the Buffalo Bisons signed a three-year deal to stay with Entercom’s ESPN affiliate, WWKB (1520), presumably to keep the team away from Cumulus’ CBS Sports Radio outlet in town, WHLD (1270). Ben Wagner’s back for a eighth season in the booth (everywhere except on the Bisons’ website, which says he’s back for his third season…in 2009!)

The Syracuse Chiefs are much more stable this year than last, when they spent the year webcast-only. The fans made it clear that they still wanted their baseball on the airwaves, and that produced this gem of a quote from GM Jason Smorol: “The fans wanted us to be on the radio. The radio wanted us to be on the radio. I don’t think it’s that hard. Everyone wanted us to be on the radio. We’re on the radio.” The team’s new radio home is its old radio home, Cumulus’ WSKO (1260), with Jason Benetti and Kevin Brown back in the booth.

All three of the Thruway teams get some TV coverage as well, via Time Warner Cable Sports.

In Pawtucket, the Red Sox have another new announcer this year. Bob Socci spent just a few months with the Pawsox at the start of last season before getting the call in July to take over from the legendary Gil Santos as the radio voice of the Patriots, and that brings Josh Maurer into the booth this year. Maurer moves up from the AA Trenton Thunder to work alongside Jeff Levering, in his second season with the team. WHJJ (920 Providence) remains the radio flagship, with at least a partial lineup on a dozen additional signals around the region.

The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders are in year two of their five-year radio deal with Bold Gold Media Group, which carries the games on its “Game” sports network, WICK (1400 Scranton)/WYCK (1340 Plains)/WCDL (1440 Carbondale). Announcer John Sadak starts the season celebrating being named “Broadcaster of the Year” by Ballpark Digest – congratulations! On TV, it’s a 22-game lineup (up from 20 last year) in the second year of a five-year deal with MyNetwork outlet WQMY (Channel 53).

It’s more of the same, too, at the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, where WEEX (1230 Easton)/WTKZ (1320 Allentown) return once again as radio flagships (with WNPV 1440 Lansdale as an affiliate), with Matt Provence and Jon Schaeffer calling the games. The ‘Pigs also enjoy unusually extensive TV coverage, with the entire 72-game home lineup televised on a cable network provided by Service Electric Cable, Blue Ridge Cable and Hazleton’s WYLN.

*One rung down the minor-league ladder, here’s the lineup for the AA Eastern League, which also starts play Thursday night:As best we can tell, the Portland Sea Dogs are once again on WPEI (95.9 Saco)/WPPI (95.5 Topsham), with Mike Antonellis’ play-by-play also heard up north on WEZR (1240 Lewiston), WTME (780 Rumford) and WKTQ (1450 South Paris). Dan Acheson returns to the team as assistant director of broadcasting after spending last season with New Jersey’s Lakewood Blue Claws. It’s not clear whether the Sea Dogs will be heard this year on the New Hampshire seacoast, where WMYF (1380 Portsmouth) has been an affiliate. NESN will carry a handful of Sea Dogs (and Pawsox) games on off days for the major-league Sox.

The New Hampshire Fisher Cats are once again on WGIR (610 Manchester) and WPKX (930 Rochester), as well as WTSL (1400 Hanover)/WTSV (1230 Claremont) and their new high-power Lebanon FM translator on 94.3.

Jeff Dooley’s call of the New Britain Rock Cats will once again be heard on WPOP (1410 Hartford), with road games also on WLIS (1420 Old Saybrook) and WMRD (1150 Middletown).

The Binghamton Mets return once again to WNBF (1290 Binghamton), with Kevin Heiman now in his third season with the team.

The Harrisburg Senators return to WTKT (1460 Harrisburg) for yet another season, with Terry Byrom back in the booth.

The Erie SeaWolves appear to be back on WFNN (1330 Erie).

The Reading Fighting Phils are in their third season on WRAW (1340), but it’s an odd fit this year, since Clear Channel flipped the rest of the station’s format to Spanish hits over the winter.

The Altoona Curve are apparently entering their sixth season on WVAM (1430), with veteran broadcaster Mike Passanisi enjoying a well-deserved promotion to Assistant General Manager/Communications. The team’s extensive network includes WCCL (101.7) in the Johnstown market, as well as partial coverage on WTRN (1340 Tyrone), WCPA (900 Clearfield) and WBGG (970 Pittsburgh).

The 2013 champion Trenton Thunder don’t appear to have named a replacement yet for Josh Maurer as he moves up to the Pawsox (indeed, their website says Maurer “will return in the role in 2014”); whoever gets that nod will be heard on flagship WTSR (91.3) from The College of New Jersey, with 36 games simulcast on WBCB (1490 Levittown) just across the Pennsylvania state line.

And once again we close with that lonely solo single-A South Atlantic League outpost in NERW-land: on the Jersey shore, the Lakewood BlueClaws and play-by-play man Greg Giombarrese will be heard once again on the “Shore Sports Network,” WOBM (1160 Lakewood)/WADB (1310 Asbury Park).

We’ll tackle the single-A New York-Penn lineup later in the spring when that short-season league gets underway…

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*Are you coming to Las Vegas for the NAB Show? We’ll be there for our 14th year running – and we want you to join us! In partnership with our sister site, RadioInsight Community, and the more than 4000 members at the thriving “I Take Pictures of Transmitter Sites” Facebook group, we’re bringing our radio (and TV) friends together on Tuesday night, April 8, for an evening out at the Bond Lounge in the Cosmopolitan Hotel and Casino. Even if you have other events to attend that night (and on any given night at NAB, you probably do), we hope you’ll at least stop by and say hello. All the details are right here, or just catch up with me on the show floor for an invitation. See you there!

CALENDARS — CALENDARS — CALENDARS

Yes, we are working on the 2021 Tower Site Calendar, soon to be released — but you can order it NOW.

This is the 20th year we have been publishing our calendar. It’s still being designed, but we promise you we’ll have plenty of gorgeous tower shots to decorate your walls for the entire year.

As we’re working on it you can order the calendar in advance for 25% off — the lowest price of the season.

And while you’re getting your calendar, don’t forget the other great products in our store.

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: April 1, 2013

*Still don’t believe that FM translators have become very big business indeed? This week’s column brings news of more than a dozen new translator signals poised to hit the airwaves all over the region – as well as two full-power stations preparing to move their existing formats to translators to make other uses of their main signals.

wfasfmThe first of those is in NEW YORK‘s Westchester County, where Cumulus has quietly struck a deal to take over translator W232AL (94.3 Pomona). Until now, that little translator across the Tappan Zee in Rockland County was best known – if it was known at all – as the middle link in the chain that once brought “Jukebox Radio” from its nominal primary home up in the Catskills down to translator W276AQ (103.1 Fort Lee, N.J.) overlooking upper Manhattan. “Jukebox,” of course, ended up being silenced after the FCC started to dig deeply into the relationship between translator owner Gerry Turro and the ownership of primary station WJUX (99.7 Monticello), and the entire network ended up in the hands of a religious group, Bridgelight, which has been running the stations noncommercially.

But last week, Bridgelight applied for a big change that will take W232AL out of its own network and put it in Cumulus’ hands. The translator is asking the FCC for permission to move to the WFAS tower in Greenburgh, where it would run 250 watts from a directional antenna – and where it would use WFAS (1230 White Plains) as its primary. (The move hinges on FCC dismissal of two other 94.3 applications in Westchester and New Jersey that have been tied up in the freeze of the 2003 translator filing window, but Cumulus expects those applications to end up being dismissed.)

Nobody’s saying what happens after that, but it’s not hard to speculate: with a new Westchester-based FM outlet that will put a usable signal over most of the central part of the county, will Cumulus then feel more free to move the existing AC format from WFAS-FM (103.9 Bronxville) to 1230 and 94.3, thus allowing the 103.9 signal to finally complete its long-planned move inside New York City limits, where a transmitting facility already exists and has been tested atop the Montefiore Hospital tower in the Bronx?

2014 update: At least for now, the translator remains in Rockland County, and WFAS-FM still hasn’t moved to the Bronx.

*East of Binghamton on Route 17, there’s a frequency change coming to Shamrock’s WBZX (107.1 Hancock). The relay of “Rock 107″ (WEZX 106.9 Scranton) is applying to move down the dial to 104.5 from its existing transmitter site on Bass Mountain, where it would increase power from 2.1 kW to 6 kW – and where the frequency change would make its off-air pickup of WEZX much cleaner, too.

*In Syracuse, Citadel was staking out a pretty ambitious local sports-talk niche when it began programming WSKO (1260) as a mostly local sports outlet a few years back – but under Citadel’s successor, Cumulus, most of that local sports talk has vanished from the dial. The latest bit of local programming to disappear is Mike Lindsley’s 3-6 PM shift, which replaced Brent Axe in afternoons just a couple of weeks ago. WSKO plugged Jim Rome into Lindsley’s former midday shift, and now it will use CBS Sports Radio’s Doug Gottlieb to replace Lindsley in afternoons. That leaves only the “Bud and the Manchild” show, from 10-noon, as daily local programming on “The Score.” (WSKO is also dropping Chiefs baseball this year; more on that below in our Baseball on the Radio special report.)

As for Lindsley, he’s headed down the Thruway to handle the 1-4 PM shift and Yankees pre-game coverage on Townsquare’s WTMM (104.5 Mechanicville) in the Albany market, where he starts work today.

On TV, Sinclair is moving its 10 PM newscast in Buffalo. The WGRZ (Channel 2)-produced newscast has been airing on MyNetworkTV affiliate WNYO (Channel 49) since 2006, but next Monday it will move to sister Fox affiliate WUTV (Channel 29) and expand to seven days a week. The move will mark the first time that WUTV has had a daily newscast, ending its long distinction as by far the largest Fox affiliate without news at 10. WUTV will also rebroadcast the 6 AM hour of WGRZ’s “News 2 Daybreak” from 7-8 AM on weekdays.

*The public radio war in eastern MASSACHUSETTS is now being waged on a new front, thanks to NPR’s surprise Friday morning announcement that it’s pulling the plug on its DC-based “Talk of the Nation” after 21 years on the air. NPR officials said the move came in response to member stations’ demands for more magazine-style midday offerings like “Here and Now,” the noontime offering from Boston’s WBUR-FM (90.9) – but we hear that even many staffers at WBUR itself were surprised by the news that “Here and Now” is shifting its distribution to NPR in July after several years of syndication by PRI, the rival programming service now based across town at WGBH-FM (89.7). NPR will assist in staffing a revamped “Here and Now,” which will add a new co-host (Jeremy Hobson from “Marketplace Morning Report”) alongside Boston-based Robin Young and Meghna Chakrabarti.

hereandnow“Here and Now” will continue to be produced live at noon five days a week, adding a second hour at 1, and NPR will also offer a rollover in the 2-4 PM timeslot “Talk of the Nation” had occupied. Meanwhile, “Science Friday,” the New York City-based show that occupied the “Talk” timeslot on Fridays, will continue to be produced as well. We’ll be watching to see how the region’s public broadcasters shuffle their schedules to accommodate the changing programming offerings out there…

In Philadelphia, it appears a format change at Radio One’s WRNB (100.3 Media) is no April Fool’s joke: at 5 this afternoon, the station is expected to announce a flip from straight-ahead R&B to “Old School 100.3,” following on the heels of similar Radio One outlets in Dallas, Charlotte and St. Louis.

Five Years Ago: March 30, 2009

It was a bad week for legends on both sides of the border. Canada lost one of its heritage oldies stations for a second time, while Boston lost one of its favorite talk radio voices. We’ll get to the legacy of Larry Glick a bit later in this week’s column, but first we’ll do what CTVglobemedia couldn’t be bothered to do and give Toronto’s CHUM (1050) a proper burial after 50 years of rock and roll.
The last time CHUM changed format, back in May 2001, it was a big deal indeed. Back then, the Waters family still owned the station, as it had since the fifties, and the big flip to “Team” sports radio came with an all-day party at 1331 Yonge Street, complete with on-air reminiscences of CHUM’s glory days, a website retrospective, and passionate CHUM fans lining the sidewalks to say farewell to one of Canada’s signature radio stations. “Team” failed, and rather spectacularly at that, and even the watered-down, mostly voicetracked version of 1050 CHUM that returned to the Toronto airwaves in 2002 had its devoted admirers, at least judging by the crowds that lined up around the block on a rainy day last October to get one last look at the 1331 Yonge Street studios before they’re sold to be demolished for a new condo development.

What they – and we – didn’t know that day was that the end of the oldies format was just months away, and that when it came, it would be announced as a minor item in a press release from CP24, the all-news cable channel that went along with the CHUM radio stations when the Waters family sold their media holdings to CTVglobemedia two years ago. It took some time for CP24 to fully separate itself from CityTV, formerly CP24’s parent, after CTV spun the CityTV operations off to Rogers in 2007. (Until last week, CP24 was simulcasting evening newscasts from CTV’s CFTO-TV, but was still simulcasting CityTV’s “Breakfast TV” in the morning.) Now CP24 is asserting its own identity – and much to the surprise of CHUM fans all over North America, the announcement of a new 5:30 AM “CP24 Breakfast” show also included the news that effective that same morning – last Thursday, March 26 – the all-news cable channel would be simulcast on the new “CP24 Radio 1050.”

And just like that, half a century of Canadian radio history was gone. The 1050chum.com website, which had become a repository of CHUM’s long legacy, began redirecting to CP24’s site as soon as the announcement was made. There were no on-air farewells to be heard on 1050, since the station’s evening and overnight programming had already been tracked. Even the final moments were graceless: while “Please Release Me,” the last full song heard just before 5 AM Thursday, might have been picked as a nod to the end (again) of CHUM, there was still a minute or so left to kill, so listeners heard the beginning of “Black Magic Woman” before an unceremonious dump into CP24’s audio, complete with a steady diet of “as you can see” and “as these pictures show,” and little regard for anyone trying to follow along on the radio.

*Ask a random radio listener outside MASSACHUSETTS to name a Boston radio personality, and the odds are pretty good that the response will be “Larry Glick.”

For two decades on powerful WBZ (1030 Boston), and for many years before that on WMEX (1510 Boston) and afterward on WHDH (850 Boston), Glick’s informal style and offbeat sense of humor defined a new kind of talk radio, inspired a generation of radio people and amused fans all over the “38 states and half of Canada” served by WBZ’s 50 kW signal. (Indeed, for some years when this column was young, the single most commonly-asked question we received was, “what ever happened to Larry Glick?”) Sadly, there’s now a final answer to that question: Glick went in for open-heart surgery near his Boca Raton, Florida home last Thursday, and after 10 hours on the operating table, complications arose and doctors were unable to revive him. Glick was 87.

A native of Roxbury, Glick left Boston to serve in the U.S. Army during World War II. Returning, he attended Emerson College, worked briefly at WLNH in Laconia, N.H., then spent some time on a kibbutz in Israel. When he returned stateside in the early fifties, he went to Florida, where he owned WZOK-FM (96.9) in Jacksonville for a few years before moving to Miami’s WINZ, where his life in talk radio began. It was WMEX that brought Glick back home to Boston in 1964, where he joined an all-star staff that included Jerry Williams, though the two wouldn’t work together long. Williams left in 1965, and Glick followed in 1968, moving his nighttime talk show from WMEX’s weak 5 kW signal to WBZ’s clear channel.

At WBZ, of course, Glick found his biggest success. Leaving the heavy issues-oriented talk to the daytime hours (a lesson he learned early on at WINZ), he spent the hours from midnight to 5 AM (occasionally being moved to an earlier evening shift) having fun with night owls, early risers and probably every cab driver in the Northeast, dispensing “Glick University” T-shirts, trading quips with newsman Streeter Stuart (often parodied on the other side of the glass by newshound “Streeter Glick”) and longtime producer Kenny “Muck” Meyer, and “shooting off” callers with a barrage of sound effects.

Glick’s long run at WBZ came to a close in 1987, evidently with some acrimony, judging by his reaction when your editor reached him a few years later in hopes that he might appear on a reunion show. (Fortunately, whatever breach existed was repaired later on by Glick’s spiritual successor at WBZ, Steve Leveille; after Leveille inherited the overnight hours from Bob Raleigh, Glick made several well-received appearances as a guest on the Leveille broadcast.) From 1988 until 1992, Glick’s Boston career wrapped up at WHDH, but his show didn’t fit as well with that station’s issue-oriented talk, and the station’s attempt to move him into a daytime slot was simply the wrong spot. Glick retired from radio, turning his attention to a new career as a hypnotist and eventually moving south to Florida.

Ten Years Ago: March 29, 2004

This week’s top story comes from RHODE ISLAND, but it’s really about MASSACHUSETTS, too, as one Boston broadcaster exits the Ocean State and another prepares to enter it. Steve Mindich’s Phoenix Media/Communications Group is selling WWRX (103.7 Westerly) to Entercom for a reported $14.5 million. Mindich bought the station in 2000 when Clear Channel had to spin it off; he flipped it to modern rock as “FNX,” running it first as part of the “FNX Network” based at WFNX (101.7 Lynn MA) and later breaking off for mostly local programming. That local programming came to an end last Monday, with WWRX returning to a temporary WFNX simulcast in preparation for Entercom’s May 1 takeover.

When Entercom gets the big signal (it covers Rhode Island and serves big chunks of eastern Connecticut and southeastern Massachusetts), it’ll flip 103.7 to a simulcast of sports WEEI (850 Boston), extending that station’s programming to a market that can’t hear it very well after dark – and bringing some pretty big competition to Citadel’s WSKO (790 Providence)/WSKO-FM (99.7 Wakefield-Peace Dale, which broadcasts from the very same tower as WWRX!) What the new WEEI-FM won’t bring with it – at least not right away – is the 2004 World Champion (we can, and will, dream, especially with Opening Day just days away) Boston Red Sox, whose contract keeps them on WSKO sister station WPRO (630 Providence) through the end of the 2004 season. Entercom says it plans to move the Sox to 103.7 in 2005, the last year of its current contract with the team.

Here in Rochester, WXXI (1370) has found a temporary replacement for afternoon anchor/reporter Mark Giardina. Yes, that’s yours truly there, back on the air (for a little while, anyway) for the first time in more than two years and reminding you that “local broadcast of All Things Considered is made possible by our listeners, and by…” (2014 update: “A little while” somehow turned into 10 full years of doing fill-in news, talk, pledge drives and whatever else has needed doing at WXXI.)

There’s a new signal on the air in western PENNSYLVANIA. Clarke Ingram, scanning the dial from his base in NERW’s Pittsburgh bureau, reports that WFJY (660 Wilkinsburg) signed on Friday afternoon, running talk programming from the National Radio Network and ID’ing with sister station WVFC (1530 McConnellsburg). This is the new facility for the silent 1470 Portage, moving some 75 miles from the Johnstown area to the WURP (1550 Braddock) towers just east of Pittsburgh – and now that it’s on the air, we suspect Alex Langer’s next move will be to build out the CP that moves WVFC east to the Philadelphia market, on 1180 in King of Prussia from the WWDB (860) site.

Fifteen Years Ago: March 31, 1999

The big-band sounds that disappeared from WQEW (1560) just before New Year’s are back on the air in NEW YORK, at least in the parts of the market that can hear WNJR (1430) from Newark, New Jersey. Arthur Liu began stunting his new format on “Sunny 1430” Monday morning, with a full roster of DJs (including latest hire Julius LaRosa) to start March 29. The station’s initial 5AM-7PM schedule will go to 24 hours as additional leased-time contracts at WNJR expire. Liu has bought the remains of the old WNEW record library, which ended up at WJUX (“Jukebox Radio”) before the Bergen County (er, Monticello NY) station went to an oldies format. He’s also reported to be negotiating with CBS for the WNEW calls, but the price is said to be in the high six figures.

Just a bit to the north, WRKL (910 New City) returned to the Rockland County airwaves this week, with a simulcast of the Polish-language programs from sister PolNet station WNVR (1030 Vernon Hills IL), now claiming a “New York-New Jersey-Connecticut” relay on 910. We were remiss last week in overlooking Rockland County’s other commercial AM, little WLIR (1300 Spring Valley), ex-WGRC, WRRC, etc. The station is playing adult standards with little, if any, local content.

We’ve been reading about 1300’s history, as well as more than 150 other New York-area AM stations, in an incredible book called The Airwaves of New York, by Bill Jaker, Frank Sulek, and Peter Kanze (McFarland, 1998). We thought we knew a lot about New York radio history, but these guys have done their homework — there are stations in here we never even heard of before now!

In the Albany area, Sinclair is officially dropping its plans to buy WMHQ (Channel 45) from public station WMHT TV/FM. No word yet on what the WMHT folks will do now; they’d hoped to use proceeds from Channel 45 to fund DTV conversion and a new studio facility. NERW wonders whether the financially-strapped Sinclair will go forward with its plan to buy Buffalo’s secondary public station, WNEQ (Channel 23); those plans are apparently in some doubt now as well.

The new modern AC station on 104.9 in Altamont, ex-WSRD Johnstown, is applying for the “WAAP” calls as “the Point.” Its new PD and morning talent is Pat Ryan, who comes across the hall from nights at WYJB (95.5). And over at WABY/WKLI-WKBE, Paige Laimers succeeds former co-owner Bill Hunt as general manager.

The 99.7 formerly allocated to Old Forge has been granted a change of city of license to Newport Village, which in reality will mean 1400 watts from up in the hills east of Utica. Calls on this yet-unbuilt rimshotter are “WBGK” for now.

Houghton College in Allegany County is teaming up with Rochester public broadcaster WXXI to expand the reach of classical WXXI-FM (91.5 Rochester). If we’re reading the FCC filings right, it appears WXXI will take over Houghton’s WJSL (90.3 Houghton), while Houghton applies for a new campus-based station on 91.1 with 360 watts. Last we heard WJSL, it was using the Bath-based Family Life religious network. (2014 update: the 91.1 facility was never built.)

Up in MAINE, the days of “Mount Rialto Radio” are numbered. WCDQ (92.1 Sanford) and sister AM WSME (1220 Sanford) are being sold to Boston’s Steve Mindich and Phoenix Media Group. When the sale closes, WCDQ’s eclectic rock format will give way to a relay of Mindich modern rocker WFNX (101.7 Lynn), with the new calls “WPHX” being requested. (Those with particularly long memories will recall that Mindich wanted to use that callsign in the early ’90s when he planned to purchase Channel 46 in Norwell, then WHRC-TV and now WPXB). WSME will apparently stay with its syndicated talk format.