In this week’s issue… End to TV JSAs: What next? – WUPE-FM rebuilds – Rowland out at WTIC – King out at VPT – LI’s WBZO flips – And read to the end for details on our big NAB Show Radio Gathering Tuesday night!
LAS VEGAS – It wouldn’t be April without our annual trek into the desert to commune with a hundred thousand other broadcasters and content creators at the annual NAB Show.
But as we gather under the warm sunshine of Las Vegas (or so we’re told from deep within the stale Convention Center air), there’s more than the usual uncertainty among the TV station owners assembled here, thanks to the FCC’s 3-2 vote last week that rewrites the rules on the joint sales agreements that have changed the TV landscape in recent years.
There are two very divergent ways to see the issue before the FCC here: big TV owners, and thus the NAB as well, argue that the use of JSAs to allow a single operator to sell for two or more TV stations in a market has kept many smaller stations alive that might otherwise have failed; what’s more, they point to examples (albeit few and far between) of markets where a JSA has allowed a minority-owned broadcaster to stay in business with the help of a larger JSA partner.
There’s another side to this dispute, though, too: for every Tougaloo College, the historically black school in Mississippi that says it’s only able to keep its WLOO-TV (Channel 35) alive by using a JSA with another station in town, there’s a dozen or more markets where a Sinclair or a Nexstar or a Granite are using a JSA with a closely-linked “sidecar” company to do what looks awfully like completely bypassing the FCC’s ownership caps.
In general, those caps allow for two stations to be commonly owned and operated only if there are at least eight independent TV ownership voices in the market, and if only one of the two stations is among the top four in the ratings. And because the FCC’s decision last week doesn’t include any grandfathering for existing JSAs, there could be big effects in several NERW-land markets:
- Portland, ME – WPXT (CW/Ironwood Communications) JSAs WPME (My/Cottonwood Communications), and WGME (CBS/Sinclair) JSAs WPFO (Fox/Corporate Media Consultants, with sale to Sinclair’s sidecar Cunningham pending)
- Providence – WPRI (CBS/LIN) LMAs WNAC (Fox/Super Towers), with a sale to Media General pending
- Burlington/Plattsburgh – WFFF (Fox/Nexstar) JSAs WVNY (ABC/Mission)
- Albany – WTEN (ABC/Media General) JSAs WXXA (Fox/Shield Media),
- Utica – WUTR (ABC/Nexstar) JSAs WFXV (Fox/Mission Broadcasting, a Nexstar “sidecar”)
- Syracuse – WSTM (NBC/Barrington) JSAs WTVH (CBS/Granite), though that JSA will be allowed to expire when it ends – but that’s because Barrington is selling WSTM to Sinclair, which operates its own duopoly in the market: WSYT (Fox/Bristlecone Broadcasting, which recently bought the station from Sinclair), which LMAs WNYS (My/RKM Media)
- Rochester – WUHF (Fox/Sinclair) LMAs WHAM-TV (ABC/Deerfield Media), albeit entirely with the staff that had been working for Sinclair at WHAM-TV before WUHF moved in earlier this year
- Erie – WJET (ABC/Nexstar) LMAs WFXP (Fox/Mission); WICU (NBC/SJL) operates under a shared-services agreement with WSEE (CBS/Lilly)
- Johnstown/Altoona – Sinclair’s WJAC (NBC) would operate WATM (ABC) and WWCP (Fox) if a pending sale of those stations to Sinclair sidecar Cunningham is approved
- Wilkes-Barre/Scranton – WBRE (NBC/Nexstar) operates WYOU (CBS/Mission); WOLF-TV (Fox/New Age) and satellite WQMY (My/New Age) LMA WSWB (CW/MPS Media), with a pending sale to Sinclair and Cunningham, respectively
- Harrisburg – WHP-TV (CBS/Sinclair) LMAs WLYH (CW/Nexstar), though WHP-TV will be sold if Sinclair wins FCC permission to buy Allbritton’s WHTM (ABC)
So what happens to all of these combinations, most of them involving some pretty heavily interlinked clusters of staffers and physical facilities?
For the moment, the FCC’s big concern is on the sales end: its new rules, if they survive the inevitable court challenges, focus on the question of whether a JSA operator sells 15% or more of the airtime on its partner station. At least in theory, that still leaves room for companies like Nexstar/Mission or Sinclair/Cunningham/Deercliff to continue some of the other ways in which their stations combine services – but the FCC says it plans to open a rulemaking proceeding to investigate some of those other forms of joint operation, too. That would include the “shared services agreement” under which a Nexstar or Sinclair provides essentially all non-sales functions (engineering, master control operations, newsroom, promotions, and so on) for a Mission- or Cunningham-owned station.
Another one of those services is negotiating retransmission-consent deals with cable and satellite operators, which is why those groups are largely supporting the FCC’s moves here: they’d rather negotiate with more small operators with less leverage than with a few big companies that control multiple network affiliations in a market. Would some of those smaller My and CW stations be able to survive in today’s environment if they had to operate their own facilities, do their own promotion and sell their own airtime against bigger competitors? That will be one of the big broadcast topics at play this week here in Las Vegas, and we’ll be following the conversation closely.
Stay tuned for updates from the show each day here on fybush.com, as well as on Facebook and Twitter – and the NAB Live Blog on our partner site, RadioInsight…and if you’re here in Vegas, come to our meetup Tuesday night! (Details at the end of the column…)
[private] *Former CONNECTICUT governor John Rowland is now “former talk host John Rowland.” The WTIC (1080 Hartford) afternoon host had been on the hot seat in recent weeks as two of his former business partners stood trial on conspiracy charges.
Rowland was off the air for part of the time Brian Foley and his wife, Lisa Wilson-Foley, were in court, but he returned to the air Tuesday after they were convicted. Because of Rowland’s prominent role in the case – he was accused of acting as a consultant to Wilson-Foley’s unsuccessful Congressional campaign while being paid instead by Foley’s chain of nursing homes, and could now himself be indicted in connection with the case – and because of Rowland’s own checkered history, which included 10 months in prison for accepting bribes while governor, pressure quickly built on WTIC to distance itself from the ex-governor.
After initially saying he’d stay on the air but wouldn’t discuss the case, Rowland made a brief announcement at the end of Thursday afternoon’s show that he was done with talk radio; WTIC then announced that his frequent fill-in, “Pastor Will” Marotti, will take over the 3-6 PM slot on a permanent basis. It’s hard to see how CBS could have kept Rowland on the air, especially as news reports surfaced that he’d already turned down a plea deal that would have sent him to prison for 18 months; it’s perhaps harder to see why a station as prestigious as WTIC wanted anything much to do with Rowland in the first place.
WUPE-FM’s temporary antenna photo: (Paul Thurst/EngineeringRadio.us)
*In western MASSACHUSETTS, engineers had a busy week restoring WUPE-FM (100.1 North Adams) and W266AW (101.1 North Adams, relaying WFCR 88.5 Amherst) to the air after their towers collapsed in a wind storm on March 30.
Paul Thurst’s EngineeringRadio blog has been an outstanding source of updates on this one, since Thurst happens to be WUPE’s contract engineer. He reports that WUPE was back on the air by 1 PM last Monday, using a Shively antenna that was field-retuned (snip! snip!) from 94.1 to 100.1 and mounted on a pole next to the transmitter building, where it’s putting out about 600 watts ERP.
(That’s Paul’s photo at right, too…)
Thanks to the natural height of the Florida Mountain site, those 600 watts get out fairly well, but they’ll be replaced soon by a better signal from a 70-foot telephone pole that’s being put in place as a temporary site for WUPE-FM and W266AW while plans for a permanent replacement tower move forward.
*In Springfield, Western New England College didn’t file for a license renewal at its WNEK (105.1), but it wasn’t an oversight. The college has apparently decided that the expense of running a radio station, even a 10-watt class D signal like WNEK, was no longer worth it. When the license expired at midnight on March 31, WNEK shut down its over-the-air signal for good; students are still streaming as “WNEK The Voice,” but without an FCC license.
In addition to WNEK, the other non-renewal license cancellations at the end of March across New England were ones we expected: Tabor Academy had already shut down WWTA (88.5 Marion), and last week’s column extensively explored the demise of RHODE ISLAND‘s WALE (990 Greenville). The FCC also cancelled the license of translator W259AB (99.7 Marlborough VT), a long-ago translator of Albany’s WHAZ Christian radio. But in a very curious case, a pile of translator licenses that were also once WHAZ relays are trying to stay alive.
Way back in 1997, Carter Broadcasting filed a complaint against broadcaster Brian Dodge and his Harvest group over the operation of those translators, and 17 years later the complaint has yet to be resolved by the FCC. In the meantime, those Harvest translators have filed twice more for license renewals, all of which have been held in “accepted for filing” limbo while the petition gathers dust in some forgotten corner of the Media Bureau.This year’s batch was largely filed several months late, which could theoretically lead to fines down the road in the unlikely event those licenses ever actually get renewed.
And hearty congratulations to our long-ago former coworkers at Boston’s WBZ (1030). Along with CBS sister station WBZ-TV (Channel 4), they earned a well-deserved Peabody Award last week for their exceptional coverage of the Boston Marathon bombings and subsequent manhunt a year ago, one of only three local stations so honored this year. (The others were in Seattle and New Orleans.) One WBZ staffer won’t be around to celebrate: after a decade with channel 4, Karen Anderson has just jumped over to WCVB (Channel 5), where she’ll be part of the Team 5 investigative unit.
*In VERMONT, John King has stepped down after 27 years at Vermont Public Television, the last 16 of them as president and CEO.
It’s been rather a rough year for the statewide network, which ran into some trouble with the Corporation for Public Broadcasting after an anonymous complaint accused the network’s board of violating open meeting rules, apparently in connection with meetings about King’s continued employment there. Charlie Smith has been named interim president/CEO while the board searches for a permanent replacement.
Down the street at the separate Vermont Public Radio operation, there’s a switch coming in the VPR Classical service to the Middlebury area. VPR began providing a full-time classical feed to Middlebury in 2010 with the sign-on of WOXM (90.1), running 1.2 kW/313′ DA from Chipman Hill, north of town. Later this month, though, it will sign on a new Middlebury-licensed signal at 89.1, running 3.1 kW/313′ from that same Chipman Hill site.
That larger 89.1 signal now has the WOXM calls and will soon take over VPR Classical programming; it’s not yet clear what will become of the 90.1 license, which has applied for new calls WVXM.
If the news looks a little different on Hearst’s WPTZ (Channel 5), there’s a good reason for it: there’s a new set being built in the NBC affiliate’s Plattsburgh studio, so the news is coming from a temporary set in the newsroom for a little while. Will the new set augur a switch to full HD, instead of widescreen SD, for WPTZ’s newscasts? Stay tuned…
*In central NEW HAMPSHIRE, Steve Silberberg is filling a gap between links in his ownership chain.
Silberberg’s biggest station by far is WXRV (92.5 Andover MA), which serves not only the northern half of the Boston market but also much of the Merrimack Valley; up north in ski country, he simulcasts “The River” on WLKC (105.7 Campton). Now he’s adding a simulcast in Concord, right where WXRV’s main signal starts to fade out.
Silberberg’s $425,000 purchase of WWHK (102.3 Concord) ends more than five years of uncertainty at one of the oldest FM signals in the state capital. The former WKXL-FM was part of the cluster that was transferred from Vox to Nassau in 2004, but because of ownership caps, the station (then WOTX), Nassau couldn’t buy it outright, instead entering into an LMA with licensee Capitol Broadcasting.
But when the FCC ruled that LMAs count against ownership caps in radio (unlike TV, as noted at the top of the column), Nassau had to stop operating the station – and so it dropped its rock format (“the Hawk”) and went into a long limbo. Andrew Sumereau’s Birch Broadcasting took control of the WWHK license in 2009, agreeing to pay $950,000 for the station, with Nassau holding the note.
Ever since, WWHK has been something of a zombie station, never launching a full-fledged commercial operation and instead simulcasting talker WTPL (107.7 Hillsborough) or, for the last couple of years, running a nonstop, commercial-free diet of Vitamin String Quartet instrumental covers of contemporary hits.
Silberberg’s purchase of 102.3 includes an LMA that took effect April 1 (which means a WXRV simulcast could start any day now), as well as a $150,000 non-compete deal with Sumereau and whatever’s left of the now-bankrupt Nassau, which sold the rest of its cluster to Bill Binnie.
*There’s no ownership change filed with the FCC yet, but the Nashua Telegraph reports there are new managing partners working alongside Tom Monahan at Absolute Broadcasting’s WGAM (1250 Manchester)/WGHM (900 Nashua) and WSMN (1590 Nashua).
Sports talk host Jim Censabella and Phil Ferdinand (on air as “the Philly Food Guy”) are now helping to run the stations, and they say they’re about to move the WGAM/WGHM studio to Manchester, while they hope the FCC moves quickly on more FM translators for AM stations to give WSMN the chance to have an FM voice. (But even if there is a window, would there be any frequencies available once the current LPFM proceeding is complete?)
*Radio People on the move: J.C. Coffey moves up from assistant to permanent brand manager at Saga’s WMLL (96.5 Bedford).
*In MAINE, Saga and Bible Broadcasting are reworking a Portland translator deal.
Back in December, Saga filed to buy Bible’s translator W277AM (103.3), which is in the process of moving to the tower of Saga’s WYNZ (100.9) with a 99-watt signal. Along the way, though, the thaw in the freeze of decade-old translator applications landed Bible a second translator CP, W288CU (105.5), also at the WYNZ site but with 200 watts of power.
As with the original W277AM deal, Saga will get the translator in exchange for providing Bible with a 10-year lease on the WYNZ site, at no cost. So when the dust settles, Bible will have 103.3 at that South Portland site, relaying its WYFP (91.9 Harpswell), while Saga will have a new 105.5 translator.
Back in December, Saga said it planned to use its new translator to relay WBAE (1490 Portland); we’ll see if that holds once the signal signs on. In Hudson, Threefold Ministry has a callsign for its new 96.3 LPFM: it will be WLUT-LP.
*Our NEW YORK news begins on Long Island, where Connoisseur is making both programming and technical changes at WBZO (103.1 Bay Shore).
Starting today, the station will still be “B103,” but its music format will shift to a harder, newer blend of rock from the classic hits it’s been running. Jim O’Brien moves from middays to mornings, where Frank Brinka exits; Brinka’s co-host (and station PD) The Wiseman moves to afternoons, displacing Keith Allen, and Jen Wylde takes over middays.
The move to “Long Island’s Classic Hits of the 80s, 90s and More!” takes B103 out of direct competition with resurgent WCBS-FM (101.1), which outrated it in the most recent Nassau/Suffolk Nielsen Audio ratings. (Neither CBS-FM nor B103 comes close to covering the entire Nassau/Suffolk market, but then again neither does anyone else.)
On the technical side, now that Connoisseur is buying WDRC-FM (102.9 Hartford) from Buckley, it’s expanding WBZO’s signal a little at the expense of WDRC’s.
WBZO has applied to the FCC to go non-directional (still with 1.55 kW/462′), while WDRC-FM will install a directional antenna at its West Peak site. For WDRC-FM, the lost coverage will be outside its core Hartford market, while for WBZO the added interference-free signal will be on Long Island’s north shore, very much in-market.
*In Queens, translator W292DV (106.3) is back on the air from Long Island City, relaying an HD subchannel of WVIP (93.5 New Rochelle) with a four-watt directional signal.
The latest attempt for more power at W292DV finds the translator applying for 40 watts from its current Long Island City site – can it continue to steer clear of the interference complaints from WKMK (106.3 Eatontown NJ) that have dogged it for several years now?
As expected, Univision Radio made some big cuts, slimming down by more than 100 staffers as it’s moving to a more national programming model and as parent company Univision is reportedly planning an upcoming IPO. In New York, the biggest cut was Alex Quintero (“Alex Q”), who’s out as program director at WXNY (96.3), ending his second run in a Univision PD chair.
*Where Are They Now? Former WNOW-FM (92.3 New York) PD Rick Gillette has just landed at Cumulus, where he’s both corporate PD and the PD of Washington’s WRQX (107.3).
*Upstate, our friend Bud Williamson has a penchant for preserving old New York City callsigns (as witness his WYNY 1450 in Milford, PA); now he’s done it again, changing the calls on WNYX (88.1 Montgomery) to WQCD, the old 101.9 New York call that he’d also used back in the Milford station’s CP phase.
Meanwhile, WNYX/WQCD translator W255CM (98.9 Port Jervis) has moved to 88.1 as W201DO.
In Elmira/Corning, there’s another twist in the bankruptcy sale of Robert Pfuntner’s station cluster.
Last October, Randy Reid’s Titan Radio LLC filed to buy the two FM/two AM group in Elmira as well as Pfuntner’s Bath stations, for a total of $2.7 million. Titan began operating the stations under an LMA, but the deal never closed. Instead, the stations ended up in the hands of creditors, with broker Dick Foreman appointed as receiver.
He moved quickly to take new bids for the Elmira stations, as well as for Pfuntner’s stations in Olean, and in late January he accepted a $950,000 bid from Great Radio, LLC, which owns WCBA (1350) in Corning.
As we noted in NERW on February 3, that was a slightly eyebrow-raising deal, since Great’s principal, Bill Christian, is married to Paige Christian, VP/secretary of Sound Communications, which runs one of the two big competing radio clusters in town out of a Corning storefront just a few doors down Market Street from Bill Christian’s TV station, WYDC (Channel 48); on the financing side, a trust controlled by Bettina Finn owns the equity in Sound, while Finn’s husband, Brian, holds the debt for Bill Christian’s Vision group.
The eyebrows that were raised, as it turns out, were those of Reid (a former WETM-TV general manager who now runs an ad agency in town) and of Community Broadcasters, the Jim Leven/Bruce Mittman group that just bought the former Backyard Broadcasting stations, the third big cluster in the market. Community and Reid both filed against the Great Radio/Pfuntner deal, and late last week Foreman fired back.
His response claims a fairly high wall of separation between Bill and Paige Christian’s interests: in particular, Foreman says, Bill Christian and his Vision/Great Radio stations have never had any programming or business control of Paige Christian’s Sound stations, and vice versa.
WCBA, he acknowledges, has continued to “maintain a computer” in the Sound studios on Market Street (in reality, we think that’s the automation system that’s been running WCBA’s nonstop ESPN Radio feed), and Sound staffers have prepared program logs for WCBA…but, the petition notes, WCBA has essentially ceased to sell local advertising and draws a 0.0 share in the market. (It will, in any event, be spun off if this deal closes; already, Paige Christian says she’s removing the WCBA window signage at the Sound studios that remains from the days when it was co-owned with the other stations there.)
And here’s what may be the most interesting parts of the reply: Foreman says Community’s involved because it submitted several bids itself for the Pfuntner stations, albeit lower ones than the one he accepted from Sound, making this a case of sour grapes more than anything else.
We also get some insight into the revenue breakdown in the market: Foreman says the Pfuntner stations take in about 18 percent of the market’s total revenue, with the Sound stations getting 25 percent for a combined total of 43 percent. Community, meanwhile, enjoys a 29-percent share of the market all on its own.
In the Adirondacks, WNAK-FM (105.9 Indian Lake) changes calls to WXLE; is it just our imagination, or does that sound like a call that could be part of St. Lawrence University’s sprawling North Country Public Radio network?
In Auburn, we hear WMBO (1340) is dropping its long-running all-Beatles stunt and flipping to a simulcast of classic hits “Dinosaur” from sister station WNDR (103.9 Mexico) in the Syracuse market.
In Utica, Jeff Matthews was one of the last remaining pieces of the original anchor team when Nexstar restarted news on WUTR (Channel 20)/WFXV (Channel 33) in 2011; now he’s out from the station, we’re told.
Here in Rochester, Joan Brandenburg is out after a short run in mornings at oldies WLGZ (102.7 Webster); she keeps her longstanding Saturday morning gig as the PA voice at the Rochester Public Market, though.
The MuCCC group in Rochester has calls for its LPFM CP: it’ll be WAYO-LP on 104.3.
*In Atlantic City, NEW JERSEY, there’s a new morning team at WMGM (103.7). With the departure of JoJo & Scotty to competitor WZXL (100.7), WMGM has hired Matt Murray and Tess Taylor (late of WRKZ in Columbus, Ohio) to do mornings as “Matt and Tess.”
*Our PENNSYLVANIA news is all on the low-power side of things.
On the translator front, Temple University has been granted a CP and calls (W292ET) for a new 106.3 in Lancaster, which will relay WRTL (90.7 Ephrata), which in turn relays WRTI (90.1 Philadelphia).
Hope Christian Church of Marlton, the licensee of W231BG (94.1 Sunnyburn) has returned that license to the FCC; the York County signal relayed WXPH (88.7 Middletown).
In Lebanon, we note that former Family Radio (WKDN-FM 106.9 Camden) translator W249AA is now relaying WLEB-LP (93.1 Lebanon); this may not be an especially recent change, but we noted it when the translator filed for license renewal.
There’s a new LPFM coming to Warminster, north of Philadelphia: Hope Int’l Inc. has been granted a signal on 106.5.
And the FCC has now officially dismissed the application for a new LPFM in North Versailles, near Pittsburgh, that we wrote about last week. The Commission didn’t spend much time addressing the concern that one of the petitions to deny the LPFM a license may have been filed under a deceptive name, nor did it take up the complaint from WPTS (92.1 Pittsburgh) about potential interference to its own class D signal; instead, it focused on the question of whether the applicant, Tri Borough Communications, was properly established as a nonprofit when it filed for the signal on 92.3. It wasn’t, says the Commission, and so the 92.3 application was tossed.
(Applicant Lawrence Gerson has already filed a petition for reconsideration, apparently attempting to name a different nonprofit, the White Oak animal shelter, as a “benefactor,” whatever that’s supposed to mean.)
*In CANADA, it seems as if the folks at My Broadcasting won’t be satisfied until they have a station in every small community across southern Ontario.
Last week the CRTC granted one of those applications, but denied another. At a CRTC hearing last October, My had proposed new AC signals in Arnprior and Carleton Place, in the Ottawa Valley east of the capital.
In Arnprior, My would have shut down its existing CHMY-FM-1 (107.7), which relays CHMY (96.1 Renfrew), replacing it with a new local signal on 97.5 with 769 watts average ERP/1.4 kW max DA/105 m.
The 107.7 frequency, in turn, would have been reused in Carleton Place, at the southwestern fringe of the Ottawa metro, where it would run 362 watts average ERP/675 watts max DA/99.4 m.
In Carleton Place, though, My faced a strong objection from Perth FM Radio, which operates CHLK (88.1) in nearby Perth. CHLK argued that My’s application would have taken revenues away from its own station.
While My argued that Carleton Place is a separate market and its new signal there wouldn’t damage CHLK, the CRTC took the Perth station’s side. (It also noted that the frequency exchange proposed by My runs against current commission policy.)
So My won’t get its Carleton Place signal – but it did win CRTC permission to convert CHMY-FM-1 in Arnprior into a local station, albeit on its existing 107.7 frequency, with 790 watts average ERP/2.5 kW max DA/105 m.
*In Ottawa, there’s an airstaff in place on the new “Jump” 106.9 (CKQB), which launched last Monday morning at 11. The Corus-owned top-40 has Jay Hat (late of Courtenay BC) in mornings, Jenna Mo (from “2Day FM” CFLZ/CJED in Niagara Falls) in middays, Gord St. Denis (from CKNX-FM 101.7 Wingham) in afternoons and Mr. D. (late of CKBT 91.5 Kitchener) at night and serving as music director.
*North of Toronto, the CRTC has granted Evanov’s application to take CIAO (530 Brampton) from directional to non-directional, replacing the station’s existing array (which we believe is two towers of the old CKMW 790 array, though Industry Canada reports it to the FCC as a three-tower day/one-tower night setup) with a single 226-meter tower, still running 1000 watts day, 250 watts at night.
As the only commercial station on 530 in North America, there’s not much CIAO has to protect, and as a result it’s heard far and wide at night.
[/private] *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!
The 2022 Tower Site Calendar is coming soon, and it’s going to make a big splash!
Actually a big boom.
This year’s calendar will focus on the 100th anniversary of America’s radio boom, when the industry really took off and stations erupted all over the country.
More details and ordering information coming soon!
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 8, 2013
When Codcomm debuted top-40 “Y101″ on WHYA (101.1 Mashpee) at 11 AM on Thursday, it marked the return of some of the format’s top practitioners.
Codcomm, of course, is owned by John Garabedian, who’s been doing top-40 since the 1960s as PD of Boston’s WMEX (1510, now WUFC), founder of influential video channel WVJV (V66) and as the creator and longtime host of the syndicated “Open House Party.” So when he bought the former Nassau stations on Cape Cod last year and set the ball rolling to split the “Frank” simulcast between WFRQ (93.5 Harwich Port) and then-WFQR (101.1), it seemed very likely that he’d be the man to bring the hits back to the market after the demise of the last top-40 on the Cape, the former WRZE (96.3, now sports WEII).
And then Garabedian began assembling a staff that included station manager Steve McVie, who’s been “the man” for top-40 on the Cape for years, right back to the day four years ago when he was the last voice heard on WRZE.
It all amounted to one of the worst-kept secrets in radio for a few weeks running, culminating last Monday night in the end of the “Frank” simulcast on 101.1 and the start of two and a half days of a computerized countdown interspersed with speech-synthesized snark.
“Party Rock Anthem” kicked off the real format on Thursday morning, and it comes with an airstaff already in place. Jessica (late of WXLO in Worcester) handles middays, McVie is doing afternoons, Jackson Blue (tracked from WXKS-FM in Boston) handles nights and mornings are the province of the syndicated Elvis Duran show from New York’s Z100.
Now Garabedian and McVie and the staff at Codcomm can get busy preparing for the fourth signal in their cluster: WKFY (98.7 East Harwich) is currently a construction permit, and when it hits the air, it appears they’ll need a new sign outside the company’s Hyannis studios.
*In central CONNECTICUT, the changes at WCCC-FM (106.9 Hartford) have claimed one of the rock station’s best-known jocks: Mike Picozzi is out after 15 years there, most recently as PD and morning co-host.
Music director Mike Karolyi moves up to the PD chair; Raven and Miss Klonk remain in place in morning drive, and afternoon jock Craig Edelson adds the title of music director.
*Our PENNSYLVANIA news starts at Radio One in Philadelphia, where “Old School 100.3″ launched on schedule Tuesday at WRNB (100.3 Media). For now, the new format is running jockless, but the syndicated Tom Joyner morning show and local airstaff are expected to be back on the air fairly soon.
Down the hall at WPHI (Hot 107.9), there’s a new morning show: Shamara Alfa, late of Beasley’s WRDW-FM (Wired 96.5) and Lalya St. Clair team up as “PMS: Philly’s Morning Show,” taking over from the syndicated Ricky Smiley.
Five Years Ago: April 7, 2009
*It was another big week of news here in NERW-land, from the promise of a TV affiliation fight brewing in Boston, to format changes in Providence and New Hampshire, to the start of the baseball season, to the loss of a part of our own NERW family – but when we got the phone call Thursday morning letting us know that Paul Sidney had died, there was no question that our lead story this week would be coming from out on Long Island, at the very eastern tip of NEW YORK state, at WLNG (92.1 Sag Harbor).
WLNG was just a few months old, and still exclusively on the AM dial, at 1600, when Paul Sidney came to town to become program director. Then in his early twenties, Sidney had already spent most of his life in broadcasting, starting with a homebrew studio in his Brooklyn bedroom at the age of eight, then an early job at WLIS in Old Saybrook, Connecticut that led him to the new WLNG early in 1964.
In the 45 years that followed, Sidney and the station became inseparable, for while his titles changed (PD, then vice president, then general manager, and since 2005 general manager emeritus), they were really meaningless, because Paul Sidney was WLNG, and WLNG, in turn, became one of the most distinctive and beloved stations anywhere on the radio dial.
By today’s radio standards, the WLNG that Paul Sidney created is an anomaly – a music mix that ranges from fifties oldies to contemporary hits, jingles seemingly between every programming element, lots and lots of local news and an almost nonstop parade of live remotes from all over Long Island’s East End, especially on weekends.
It shouldn’t work, perhaps, but it does, consistently topping the East End ratings and reportedly maintaining a healthy profit margin.
Paul Sidney dedicated his life to making that happen, in a way that goes far beyond the usual cliche. While he lived in an apartment in downtown Sag Harbor, he was much more likely to be found at the station on Redwood Causeway, or sitting on a bench chatting with anyone walking by – or, of course, out at a remote with the “Tireless Wireless,” interviewing anyone within arm’s reach.
Sidney had been in poor health in recent years, and had spent some time in the hospital about a week ago. He was released last Monday, but fell ill again Wednesday night.
He died early Thursday morning (April 2), at age 69. Funeral services were held Friday, and on Sunday friends of the station gathered for a less formal memorial to Sidney outside WLNG’s studios.
The true memorial to Paul Sidney, however, will be at 92.1 on the FM dial (and streaming at WLNG.com), where his colleagues, including Rusty Potz and Gary Sapiane, will be keeping his legacy alive with unique local programming…and lots of jingles.
*Our other lead story this week comes from eastern MASSACHUSETTS, where WHDH-TV (Channel 7) owner Ed Ansin set the TV world abuzz late last week with the announcement that his station won’t be carrying NBC’s new 10 PM Jay Leno show when it debuts in September.
Ansin’s relationship with NBC has never been an easy one; while his other station, Miami’s WSVN (Channel 7), had long been tied to the Peacock, NBC bristled at frequent pre-emptions and ended up buying its own Miami station, WTVJ (Channel 4), in 1987 – only to have Ansin hold the network to its contract with WSVN through the 1988 Olympics.
WSVN eventually became one of the most successful Fox affiliates in the country, largely on the strength of a ratings-dominant 10 PM newscast.
When Ansin bought WHDH-TV in 1993, the station was a CBS affiliate, and Ansin pre-empted a fair amount of CBS programming (including the network’s morning show). But the 1995 deal that brought WBZ-TV (Channel 4) into partnership with CBS meant an affiliation swap – and while Ansin negotiated with Fox, in the end he ended up with NBC on Boston’s channel 7, paving over whatever tensions he’d had with the network…until now.
While there’s been plenty of private grumbling from affiliates about the potential problems a 10 PM Leno show could pose to their own all-important 11 PM news ratings, so far WHDH has been the only NBC station to come out and say it doesn’t plan to carry the show. In a Globe interview, Ansin said carrying Leno would be “detrimental to our 11 o’clock newscast” and “detrimental to our finances.”
*After just over a year on the air in RHODE ISLAND, “True Oldies” have run their course. Citadel’s WPRV (790 Providence) has replaced the ABC (er, Citadel Media) format with talk, keeping Don Imus in morning drive, followed by the Citadel-syndicated Joe Scarborough/Mika Brzezinski late-morning show, Bloomberg Radio in middays, and a local leased-time money show in late afternoon drive.
What’s on at night? Breathe easy, you Yankees fans deep in Sox-land – the pinstripes will still be heard on 790 this season.
*The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre market is down to two local TV news operations with Friday’s abrupt closure of the newsroom at CBS affiliate WYOU-TV (Channel 22).
Channel 22 has long been an also-ran in a market that’s massively dominated by ABC affiliate WNEP (Channel 16), which routinely draws 40 and 50 shares for its local newscasts.
For the last few years, WYOU has been operated jointly with NBC affiliate WBRE (Channel 28), and while the stations have tried to find ways to differentiate their newscasts, including an attempt by Channel 22 to create “interactive newscasts” heavy on live guests and viewer call-ins and to broadcast its news at off-hours such as 4 PM and 7 PM, WYOU still couldn’t break out of the bottom of the ratings pack, a deadly place to be in today’s economy.
For now, WYOU has replaced its newscasts with entertainment programming; 14 more people are out of work as a result of the cancelled newscasts.
Ten Years Ago: April 6, 2004
*It was a relatively slow week on the U.S. side of the border, so why not begin our report this week in CANADA?
That’s where Astral Media is trying yet again to unload the cluster of Quebec AM stations that the CRTC ordered it to divest several years ago.
After its most recent plan to sell the stations to a management-led group derailed, Astral is back with another plan: it now intends to trade the group of stations to another big Canadian broadcaster, Corus Entertainment.
Here’s how it will play out: Corus will get the Radiomedia AM stations (CKAC 730 Montreal, CHRC 800 Quebec City, CJRC 1150 Gatineau-Ottawa, CKRS 590 Saguenay, CHLT 630 Sherbrooke, CHLN 550 Trois-Rivieres/CKSM 1220 Shawinigan), CKTS 900 Sherbrooke (which relays Standard’s CJAD 800 Montreal) and CFOM 102.9 Quebec City.
In Montreal, that will put CKAC in the same ownership family as its new FM news-talk archrival CKOO (98.5), as well as French all-news CINF (690), English all-news CINW (940), English AC CFQR (92.5) and French top 40 CKOI (96.9).
Astral, meanwhile, will get five FMs from Corus in much smaller Quebec markets: CFVM (99.9 Amqui), CFZZ (104.1 St. Jean-sur-Richelieu, just south of Montreal), CJDM (92.1 Drummondville, which will pair with Astral’s existing CHRD 105.3 there) and Rimouski’s CJOI (102.9) and CIKI (98.7). Astral has already announced plans to use these new signals to expand the reach of its province-wide “Rock Detente,” “Energie” and “Boom” French-language formats; we’d guess that CJOI and perhaps CFVM and CJDM will take Rock Detente, CIKI will take Energie and CFZZ will pick up Boom.
An interesting note here: this transaction shows both how eager Astral is to unload its AM properties after two failed attempts (the CRTC ruled against an earlier plan by TVA and Radio Nord to acquire the stations) and how little AMs are worth these days even in big Quebec cities – there was, after all, a time when 50 kW signals like CKAC and CHRC would have been the most valuable radio properties in Quebec, and now they’re being traded for some awfully small FMs.
*In NEW YORK, Air America Radio launched on schedule over WLIB (1190 New York) Wednesday afternoon. At least for now, WLIB is Air America’s only affiliate in the east (though there are strong rumors that Inner City Broadcasting sister station WHAT 1340 in Philadelphia will soon join it).
You’ve probably already read half a dozen reviews of the programming, and the truth of the matter is that after being unable to get on the stream the first day, we haven’t been back to try again – and in any case, if you’re anything like most of the people we know in radio, you already know how you feel about this one without needing to listen…so we’ll move on.
*What’s WPLJ program director/morning guy Scott Shannon doing on afternoon drive on a little AM daytimer in CONNECTICUT? Having fun, that’s what – and launching a new format for WPLJ’s parent company, ABC.
Shannon’s “True Oldies” format launched last week on WREF (850 Ridgefield), right on the edge of the New York metro up there in northern Fairfield County, and it’ll soon go out nationally as the latest format offering from ABC Radio Networks. No 70s material here – this is largely pre-Beatles rock’n’roll, with Shannon himself holding down that afternoon shift, and it sounds like a blast to listen to, at least from where we’re sitting.
*It didn’t take long for Entercom to make a station move in northeastern PENNSYLVANIA: just a week after the FCC granted the construction permit for WAMT (103.1 Freeland) to move north from the Hazleton area to become an Avoca-licensed signal, engineers had completed the work to add 103.1’s signal to the WDMT (102.3 Pittston) antenna near the interchange of PA 315, I-81 and I-476 in Pittston, and 103.1 reappeared last Wednesday as WFEZ, “Easy 103,” with a soft AC format.
The move means listeners in the southern end of the market lose the “Mountain” format that WAMT had been simulcasting with WDMT, but it brings a new signal into the heart of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton market. It also means WKRZ (98.5) changes city of license from Wilkes-Barre to Freeland, with no technical or format changes…
*Today (April 5) marks the end of religious WZZD (990 Philadelphia) and the launch of Salem’s conservative talk format on the renamed WNTP.
Fifteen Years Ago: April 7, 1999
*It’s not exactly “Jammin’ Oldies,” it’s not exactly rhythmic CHR, but whatever you want to call the new format on 93.7 in Boston, it’s replaced “The Eagle” and classic rock.
At 10 o’clock Wednesday night, to the strains of “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” the classic rock on WEGQ (93.7 Lawrence) came to an end, Prince’s “1999” began playing, and kept playing until 3 PM Thursday, when Entercom debuted “Star 93.7, the Rhythm of Boston.”
Eagle PD Pete Falcone is gone, replaced by Ron Valeri (formerly APD at sister Entercom station WAAF) in the PD chair and Pat Paxton (formerly with consultant Guy Zapoleon) as operations manager.
Paxton, who describes the new format as “rhythmic oldies from the 70s, 80s, 90s, along with some currents,” also takes over as Entercom’s group director of programming for AC and CHR stations.
So what does “Star” sound like? First song up was the Gap Band’s “You Dropped a Bomb On Me,” followed by Michael Jackson, Gloria Estefan, Cher’s “Believe” and the Bee Gees. No word yet on airstaff, although we hear the Eagle crew may be out, and no official new calls, although Entercom’s said to be requesting WQSX.
NERW’s take? An interesting strategy, clearly aiming at a much more female demo than the Eagle did, and apparently targeting listeners from Chancellor’s Kiss (and, to some extent, Jam’n’s urban audience), CBS’ Mix (a former Eagle sister station in the ARS days), and Greater Media’s WROR.
Could it be that, with Mix out of the family, Entercom needed something with a less male-heavy demo to complement the very testosterone-driven trio of WAAF, WEEI, and WRKO? If nothing else, the existence of Star is likely to deter any of the other groups from doing all-out rhythmic oldies (without the 80s, 90s, and currents), but then that’s a Chancellor trademark (in the case of “Jammin Oldies,” literally so!) and Chancellor’s unlikely to blow up either of its two successful FMs and even less likely to be able to buy anything else in the market.
*That’s not all from MASSACHUSETTS this week: Staying at Entercom/Boston, there’s a new host for the 11PM-1AM spot on WRKO (680). Longtime New York talker Jay Severin will fill the hole created by the Two Chicks’ departure and Tai’s move to the Chicks’ earlier time slot.
In mornings on ‘RKO, there’s a change in the weather, as Jacquie Murphy leaves Metro Networks for a new gig with The Weather Channel’s Atlanta radio operation and Ivan Curtis takes over.
*And our sincere condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of Ben Gailing, who died on Saturday (3/27) at age 100.
Gailing was one of the country’s longest-running radio hosts. His Yiddish-language show with Hankus Netsky was still being heard on WUNR (1600) at the time of his death.
*Moving up to NEW HAMPSHIRE, the big news this week was the sale of Concord’s WKXL (1450/102.3) to a new group called Vox Media, headed by Bruce Danziger.
WKXL had been owned since 1980 by an employee group headed by 33-year station veteran Dick Osborne. We hear Osborne plans to retire once the deal closes, but Vox says it will keep the rest of WKXL’s staff and its local focus.
One possible change is a return to split programming on the AM and FM, which have been simulcast since 1991. Late word into NERW is that Vox is also buying WORK (107.1) and WSNO (1450) in Barre, Vermont, and plans to make as many as a dozen more small-market purchases in New England. NERW hears sale prices of about $1.5 million for WKXL and $2.2 million for WSNO/WORK…
*CBS’s Rochester market manager has left the building. Bob Morgan was closely associated with the former owners of WCMF, WPXY, WZNE, and WRMM, American Radio Systems. Now he’s rejoining former ARS head honcho Steve Dodge at American Tower Systems, where Morgan will head up the ATS Tall Tower Division (now that’s a job we like!). No replacement has been named yet, but CBS officials are promising a quick decision.
*Just across Chestnut Street, Entercom made some PD shuffles this week, ousting Chris Whittingham at oldies WBBF (98.9) and Mario at classic rock WQRV (93.3 Avon), and bringing Bobby Hatfield in as a replacement (his previous stint at 98.9 was in the mid-80s country WZKC days).
*Over at Jacor, Friday marked the debut of new morning team Marc Murphee (from Nashville’s WRVW) and Diane Dinero (from CKEY Fort Erie/Buffalo) on “Mix 100.5” WVOR.
*Geneva public broadcaster WEOS (89.7) made its big move this week to 4 kilowatts from the new Continental transmitter out on Lake-to-Lake Road. The new 89.7 signal is getting good reviews as far down as Ithaca, while new translator W212BA covers Geneva proper on 90.3.
*Albany’s newest FM station is playing the “Slogan of the Week” game, it seems. Just two weeks after WSRD (104.9) moved from Johnstown to Altamont and became “the Point,” things have turned, er, point-less.
The new moniker is the highly imaginative “Z 104.9,” and word has it that plans for new WAAP calls are being dropped while station management searches for something good with a Z in it.
*Also playing musical slogans is WABY (94.5 Ravena/1400 Albany), which is now calling itself “94.5 the Capital Region’s light FM, WABY.” Albany bureau chief Gavin Burt reports no big format change here yet…but it sounds like WABY is moving ever further from standards and closer to AC.