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…)
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 2018 Tower Site Calendar is just about to go to press, and you can pre-order it now at a discounted price!
Sure, we have a few months of 2017 pictures left to enjoy, but who says you can’t admire more than one tower at a time?
To get a sneak peek of the photos we’re featuring next year, go to our store to place your order. Be the first on your block to show off the 2018 Tower Site Calendar! You can buy the standard calendar or the signed and numbered limited edition. The calendar will be on sale at a lower price until it’s off the press, so you still have time to save some money.
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.