In this week’s issue… NAB Show wrap-up – CBC makes big cuts – WHN towers down – CRTC to station: “sell or die” – Norm Peters, RIP
By SCOTT FYBUSH
*Some NAB Shows bring with them big changes in the broadcasting industry’s outlook. Some come with exciting new technological developments. And some, like NAB Show 2014, are purely evolutionary. Sure, there were some interesting new developments in the integration of radio into streaming audio (my colleague Lance Venta covered some of those on his RadioInsight live blog), and sure, we got to hear iBiquity explain how this year, finally, was the year when HD Radio will break through to mass-market status (and, yeah, there actually was an HD receiver in our otherwise stripped-down, manual-window-crank Toyota Yaris rental).
But if we don’t have a whole lot new to say about last week in the desert, it’s largely because the 2014 edition of the NAB Show, at least for local broadcasters, was more of an evolutionary event. So what did we learn?
On the radio side, we learned that broadcasters – at least most of the ones we talked with – are finding their place in the digital landscape. The revenue picture on the terrestrial side is still surprisingly strong, and we heard from lots of stations, even in smaller markets, that understand that their future lies not just in a transmitter attached to a tower but in being a local source of audio (and sometimes video) content across all sorts of platforms. Is your station selling space on digital signage at local arenas and event facilities? It’s bringing in good money for some operators, and it’s become a platform some automation vendors can now support.
We met “GatesAir,” which looked an awful lot like Harris Broadcast, at least for now. There are new transmitters in the works there, and of course our Nova Scotian friends at Nautel had their new GV series of high-efficiency FM transmitters on display for the first time, too. And it was nice to see new FM antenna products from several NERW-land vendors, including a new high-powered broadband antenna from Shively and several new offerings from their Maine competitor, Dielectric, back from its near-death experience with a fairly vibrant show presence under new owner Sinclair.
(Our old friend Barry Mishkind picked up on more floor goodies in his NAB report at TheBDR, including a water-cooled FM offering from Rohde & Schwarz and the 50th anniversary celebration, complete with cake in the booth, for Arno Meyer and his Pennsylvania-based Belar.)
For stations waiting for FCC action on the AM improvement proceeding, there’s more waiting still ahead. Audio Division chief Peter Doyle says they’re still working through the flood of filings and replies, which will likely mean a subsequent rulemaking proposal perhaps this summer or early autumn.
On the TV side, the multimillion dollar question (quite literally) is what will become of the many TV station combos that are threatened by the Commission’s new ruling abolishing most joint sales agreements. At the annual Garvey Schubert Barer breakfast on Monday, Media Bureau chief William Lake said the Commission will listen to waiver requests, but demonstrating a continued justification for combined operation may be a high burden for stations to overcome. Lake sharply denied the claim that the FCC is trying to end JSAs in order to push more stations into the upcoming TV spectrum incentive auction; he notes that the stations most likely to be in JSAs instead of legal duopolies tend to be in the smaller markets where auction demand for spectrum will be minimal to nonexistent.
It was, as always, a valuable chance for station owners and managers to renew old acquaintances and learn from one another, and we saw plenty of NERW-land radio people there, including a very Boston-centric panel on radio and social media that featured WEEI’s Tim Murphy and Greater Media market manager Rob Williams, who admitted (in public, yet!) that he’s a Yankees fan. On the floor, we spotted faces such as WATD’s Ed Perry, Finger Lakes Radio Group’s Alan Bishop (in what we’re told was his first NAB Show visit) and station owner Bill Blount, just to name a few.
Did you spot something at NAB that we missed? Weigh in in the comments, or on our Facebook page!
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From the NERW Archives
Yup, we’ve been doing this a long time now, and so we’re digging back into the vaults for a look at what NERW was covering one, five, ten and – where available – fifteen years ago this week, or thereabouts.
Note that the column appeared on an erratic schedule in its earliest years as “New England Radio Watch,” and didn’t go to a regular weekly schedule until 1997.
One Year Ago: April 15, 2013
*We’re back from our annual sojourn to Las Vegas and the NAB Show – check out our post-show wrapup here, free for all readers today.
As usual, with much of the industry’s attention focused 3000 miles to the southwest, it was a fairly quiet week back home in NERW-land. Here’s what was going on back east while we were out west:
*What was keeping the MASSACHUSETTS radio landscape buzzing during NAB Show week? One big story, of course – a morale problem at Entercom’s WEEI that’s burst into the open in a big way with two prominent talent departures.
It started with Jon Rish, who’s been holding down what’s traditionally been a plum gig, hosting pre- and post-game Red Sox coverage on Entercom’s WEEI and filling in on play-by-play for the Sox at times, too. But as we told you in a mid-week update from Las Vegas, Rish wasn’t willing to stick around and take a reported 30% pay cut just to stick around at WEEI, and so he gave his notice just a few hours before the home opener.
Coupled with the reported threat from longtime Sox/WEEI sponsor Giant Glass to pull its very considerable ad dollars away from Entercom, the miasma of bad news brought the company’s head honcho, David Field, up to Boston on Friday for a town hall meeting with employees – though even that brought with it some negative coverage when unhappy staffers leaked word that Field was insisting that questions be submitted in advance.
And if Field hoped the Friday meeting would put a lid on the disgruntlement at Guest Street, he wasn’t counting on weekend host Pete Sheppard. Just after 6 Saturday night, Sheppard tweeted his followers that “Hey all, got something special for you at 6:15 on WEEI” – and then proceeded to quit on the air, reportedly telling listeners he couldn’t take it anymore at the station and pinning the blame on upper levels of Entercom management above local manager Jason Wolfe.
“You will hear me again shortly,” Sheppard told his Twitter followers a few hours later, saying he’s “off the sinking ship” and hinting that “there are more changes coming” at WEEI.
*The week’s big format change came from CANADA, and it came by surprise: at 9:53 Wednesday morning, Corus flipped CING (95.3 Hamilton) from classic hits “Vinyl 95.3″ to hot AC “Fresh FM.”
Based on our listening much later that night as we headed home from the Buffalo airport, the new “Fresh” is a fairly hot brand of hot AC indeed, just a notch or two shy of an all-out CHR. Gone with the flip is any on-air attempt to target the much larger adjacent Toronto market – and gone as well are most of Vinyl’s airstaff, including afternoon jock Gord James, middayer John Novak, night guy Bob Saint and Michael Landsberg. The Vinyl morning team of Darrin Laidman and Colleen Rusholme stays in place with the flip.
*In Binghamton, Clear Channel’s plans for its cluster’s format shuffle are becoming a little clearer. After some construction delays due to windy early-spring weather, translator W221AX (92.1) moved to its new home on 96.9 from the tower of sister stations WBNW-FM (105.7)/WBBI (107.5) last week.
But instead of signing on as a simulcast of sports sister WENE (1430), as the original application had requested, 96.9 has instead shifted its primary station to oldies WINR (680).
So what about the report a couple of weeks back that 96.9 would be picking up the classic hits format from “Big 107.5″? It’s doing that, too – sort of. There’s a temporary three-way simulcast of WINR’s “Real Oldies” on 680, 96.9 and 107.5 right now, and when the dust settles, that simulcast will shrink down to 680 and 96.9 while 107.5 takes on a new format. Stay tuned…
MONDAY MORNING UPDATE:It’s country for 107.5, going right up against Townsquare’s market leader, WHWK (98.1). The new “B107.5″ revives a format last used on the frequency a little more than a decade ago, before it flipped to classic rock “Bear” and then to the oldies format; new calls are reportedly on the way.
Five Years Ago: April 13, 2009
When the new One World Trade Center rises in a few years as NEW YORK’s tallest building, it won’t have the city’s TV stations broadcasting from its spire 1,776 feet above ground level. The Metropolitan Television Alliance (MTVA), the group formed by the stations after the 9/11 attacks destroyed their old sites atop the original 1WTC, is pulling out of a deal to build a new master-antenna site at the top of the new building. MTVA president Saul Shapiro says technology and circumstances have changed since 2001, making the new site (and its reported $10 million annual rent) unnecessary. 2014 update: even without the MTVA brokering a full-market deal, the managers of the now-completed 1WTC mast, the Durst Organization, are still actively marketing the site to prospective TV and FM tenants.
The big news from MASSACHUSETTS turned out to be no news at all: both NBC and WHDH-TV (Channel 7) assumed radio silence last week as, presumably, negotiations were going on behind the scenes over whether or not channel 7 will carry Jay Leno’s new 10 PM show after all. Is WHDH caving in to NBC’s pressure after finding no other Peacock affiliates ready to follow its lead and pre-empt or delay the Leno show in favor of local news at 10? Stay tuned…
Fitchburg’s WEIM (1280) has a new set of calls and a new identity. The station scrapped the only callsign it’s ever had last Tuesday, becoming “The Heart of New England’s Pulse,” with a new format of “talk, sports and information,” new calls of WPKZ – and maybe a new FM relay on the way as well. Owner Central Broadcasting Company has just applied to buy translator W243CD (96.5 Gloucester) from Radio Assist Ministry for $45,000 after an earlier sale of the license failed to close over the winer, and there’s a newly-filed application to move the translator down the dial to 95.9. Will the next step be a series of hops to move that translator west into the Fitchburg market? (2010 answer: yes, and it took 13 steps to get to 105.5 in Fitchburg!)
In Springfield, last Monday’s flip of “True Oldies 1450” to “1450 AM, ESPN the Hall” also came with a change of venerable calls: the station that had been WMAS since its 1932 debut is now WHLL, for its studio home in the Basketball Hall of Fame. Unlike its crosstown competitor, WEEI affiliate WVEI-FM (105.5 Easthampton), WHLL has a local show in afternoon drive. And while WVEI carries the Red Sox, WHLL is now part of the Yankees network (last heard in town on WNNZ 640, before it was LMA’d to public radio WFCR.)
In RHODE ISLAND, we jumped the gun a bit on our report last week of a format change at Citadel’s WPRV (790 Providence). The flip from oldies to talk/business in fact happens today, and here’s how it plays out: Don Imus remains in place in morning drive, followed by Citadel’s Joe Scarborough at 10 AM, Bloomberg business news at noon, Dave Ramsey at 2 PM, more Bloomberg at 5, then a local show, “The Making Money Show” at 5:30. When evenings aren’t occupied by Yankees baseball, “AM 790” will be carrying Lou Dobbs’ talk show at 7 PM, followed at 10 by Citadel’s Curtis Sliwa.
J.J. Jeffrey’s Atlantic Coast Broadcasting has shuffled its programming lineup again in southern MAINE, pulling the WEEI feed off the 95.5 signal in Topsham most recently known as WGEI. 95.5 is now WLOB-FM, simulcasting the talk format of WLOB (1310 Portland) – which means it’s essentially swapped formats with the former WLOB-FM on 96.3 in Gray, which is now sports WJJB-FM, the same call and format that used to be on the smaller Topsham signal. Atlantic Coast is still carrying WEEI, via the Saco-licensed 95.9 signal (ex-WRED-FM) that’s now WTEI.
Ten Years Ago: April 12, 2004
CHUM Television is going national. Just after NERW initially went to press Monday morning, the company announced that it’s buying Craig Television, giving it the “A-Channel” stations in Edmonton, Calgary and Winnipeg and CKX-TV in Brandon, Manitoba, as well as MTV Canada. Craig went into competition with CHUM in Toronto with last year’s launch of “Toronto 1” (CKXT), which will have to be spun off because CHUM already owns flagship CITY-TV and Barrie’s CKVR in the Toronto market. Much more next week!
Now that Nassau Broadcasting is in control of the former WMTW Broadcast Group radio stations in southern MAINE, the company has set the dial spinning in a big way for Portland listeners. No sooner did Nassau take over last Tuesday than it ditched the news-talk formats at WMTW (870 Gorham), WMTW-FM (106.7 North Windham) and WLAM (1470 Lewiston), as well as the hot AC “Kiss” at WMEK (99.9 Auburn). The former news-talk stations have been running a repeating heartbeat sound effect, interspersed with Howard Dean speeches (or so we hear), while WMEK has picked up the country format (“The Wolf”) that used to be on WTHT (107.5 Lewiston). 107.5, in turn, has been broadcasting a repeating message sending listeners to 99.9 (and its Portland translator on 96.9.)
WMTW’s seven-person radio news staff is out as a result of the changes, which a Nassau memo to advertisers says will end up with new – and separate – formats on each of the three former news-talk facilities. (From Nassau’s memo: “One format is an ‘old favorite.’ One format will provide a nice counterbalance to a big name already in the market. One format will ‘shock and awe.'”
There’s a new LPFM on the air in NEW HAMPSHIRE: WLLO-LP (102.9 Londonderry) began testing late last week from Londonderry High School, playing a variety of songs about radio. “Leo 103” was scheduled for an official launch Saturday (April 10).
Concord’s WKXL (1450) is getting new owners, as Warren Bailey’s Embro group sells to a partnership of former Republican senator Gordon Humphrey and George Stevens. The pair will pay a reported $830,000 for the station, and they’ll keep Bailey on to run things for them, promising to add more local news coverage – and to keep talk host Deborah “Arnie” Arnesen, whose politics are about as far from Humphrey’s as it’s possible to get.
NEW YORK lost one of its best-loved morning men last week, with the death on Thursday (April 8) of Gene Klavan, who woke up New Yorkers on WNEW (1130) from 1952 until 1977, most of that time with partner Dee Finch. Klavan came to WNEW as the replacement for Gene Rayburn, who left to launch the TV career for which he’s best remembered. Klavan’s partnership with Finch lasted until 1968, and he remained at 1130 solo for another nine years before leaving for WOR, where he put in three more years before retiring in 1980. Klavan had been suffering from cancer; he was 79.
Fifteen Years Ago: April 9, 1999
We’ll start again this week in MASSACHUSETTS, where a week of suspense for listeners of WBOS (92.9 Brookline) ended Thursday afternoon without much change in the station’s AAA-ish AC format. You’ll recall that the DJs were given a “week off” (not really — they were still behind the board on Morrissey Boulevard, just not opening the mic) on April Fool’s Day; the only big change in their absence was the addition of some more mainstream classic rock, apparently in an attempt to fill the gap just up the dial created by the end of the Eagle at 93.7.
Speaking of WEGQ (which has yet to be formally granted the rumored WQSX calls), we understand the airstaff there are also still on the job, again without opening the mic, as they apply for their jobs again at the new “Star 93.7.” The rumor mill suggests that former Kiss disco guy Vinnie Perruzzo could end up doing afternoons on Star; we’ll keep you posted.
Obituaries: Tom Shovan, the VP of New York’s CD Media, died Friday morning (April 9) after suffering a fall at home earlier in the week. Shovan began his radio career up in New Hampshire, at Concord’s WKXL, in 1954. In 1958, he came to Boston as one of the several “Melvin X. Melvin”s on WMEX (1510). Shovan was 59.