In this week’s issue… FCC amps up pirate busts – NBC drops longtime affiliate – Bouloukos out at CBS NY – Lost 45s off the air?
By SCOTT FYBUSH
*Way back in January 2007, this column noted the inner-city Boston station calling itself “Touch 106” and running without a license, writing, “Its operators claim they can operate legally without one, since they run less than 100 watts. How long until the FCC proves them wrong?”
The answer turns out to have been “a little over seven years.” Late last week, federal officials swooped down on a batch of pirate stations in New York City and Boston, including “Touch,” seizing equipment and taking them off the air. For most of those stations, including the Boston-area signals on 89.3 and 100.1 that were silenced, it was a relatively low-profile bust – if history is any guide, those stations will lay low for a while and then quietly reappear, if someone else doesn’t show up on those frequencies first.
But Touch has played a different game from the start. Helmed by Dorchester pastor Charles Clemons, it’s used its perch as one of the few available broadcast voices in Boston’s black community to attempt to position itself somewhere above, or perhaps outside, the law. Clemons simply ignored the FCC’s $17,000 Notice of Attempted Liability in 2008, and a surprisingly large segment of Boston’s power structure has played along. Former mayor Thomas Menino was a frequent guest on Clemons’ morning show, and the city openly bought time on the station to advertise events. When Clemons entered the race to succeed Menino last fall, many of the city’s media outlets (notably the Globe) glossed over the unlicensed nature of his radio operation, treating him as a legitimate business operator and raising no questions about the enforcement actions already taken against the station. (It didn’t help; Clemons finished at the rear of the pack in the Democratic primary.)
After positioning himself as a leader in the LPFM movement, even claiming back in 2009 that he’d walk from Boston to Los Angeles to draw attention the cause (the walk was conveniently “postponed” due to bad weather), Clemons never applied for a signal when the window finally opened last fall.
So when the Feds showed up last week and shut him down, Clemons remained as outspoken as ever, vowing to fight all the way to the White House to keep his station on the air – and drawing support from power brokers as high up the food chain as governor Deval Patrick.
Here’s NERW’s take on the situation: while we’re deeply sympathetic to the lack of a media presence for Boston’s African-American community, we can’t join in the chorus of praise that Clemons has been receiving. However commendable Touch’s service to its listeners was, it was still a blatantly illegal operation. And the heart of Clemons’ original argument – that he needed to operate without a license because there was no licensed way to serve his community – was ripped out as soon as the FCC opened that LPFM window last fall.
Frequencies were available for a new LPFM in Boston; in fact, at least three of them now have applicants working their way through the mutually-exclusive process to settle on final construction permit grants. If Clemons had chosen to take part in that process, it’s true that his status as a known unlicensed broadcaster would have excluded him personally from being on the board of an applicant. But he could surely have worked with an outside nonprofit to serve as the applicant (indeed, the Globe helpfully reports that the Dorchester building that housed his station belongs to a nonprofit owned by his mother), and there’s no overt FCC prohibition against ex-pirates programming LPFMs.
Or Clemons could have leased time on (or bought) any of several AMs that are struggling to find an audience. The relatively new WZBR (1410 Dedham), for instance, nicely serves the neighborhoods Touch reached. As a licensed operator, Clemons could then have used his political pull to argue for an FM translator, and he might just have won.
Instead, there are no real winners here now. No matter how much pull Clemons might have mustered when Touch was on the air, there’s no reason to believe the FCC will back down at this point, if only because of the exceedingly bad precedent it would set in other communities. For his part, Clemons is now a marked man. If he attempts to restart Touch, he’ll immediately have the FCC’s attention once again. He may be in the sights of other regulators, too – the Globe reports that the last complaint against Touch that really started the ball rolling toward the seizure was about Clemons’ use of the station to promote his failed mayoral campaign.
And it’s the people of Boston’s inner city who really lose out here. They’ve long deserved a proper replacement for the radio voice they lost when Radio One sold off WILD-FM (97.7) and leased out WILD (1090). However noble Clemons’ intentions may have been, last week’s shutdown was inevitable in the end. If the urban community is going to be served, it’s got to be by a licensed station – and it’s pretty clear at this point that Clemons won’t be the guy to do it.
*It’s the end of the line for the NBC affiliation in southern NEW JERSEY. At the end of 2014, WMGM (Channel 40) in Wildwood will lose the network that it’s had since it signed on back in 1966 as WCMC-TV.
The station has always played something of a second fiddle to Philadelphia signals less than 60 miles away. In its early years, channel 40 didn’t even have a direct feed from the network, instead picking up then-NBC affiliate KYW (Channel 3) over the air and rebroadcasting its feed.
Back then, of course, NBC didn’t own KYW, and was often at odds with its then-owner Westinghouse. But since the big 1995 affiliation shuffle in which NBC ended up with a Philadelphia O&O, WCAU (Channel 10), WMGM’s continued existence as a second NBC outlet in the Philadelphia DMA has been tenuous. Especially in the DTV era, the heavy cable and satellite penetration in south Jersey has meant that the locals who already have to watch Philadelphia stations for CBS, ABC and Fox are likely also watching NBC on WCAU instead of WMGM.
With WMGM’s sale earlier this year from Access.1 to spectrum speculator LocusPoint Networks, the station’s future became even murkier. It had been carrying NBC under a two-year extension to a contract granted to Access.1 at the end of 2012, but now Access.1 is only WMGM’s operator, leasing the station back from LocusPoint until its channel 36 RF spectrum can be put into the FCC’s spectrum auction, tentatively set for late 2015.
When WMGM loses NBC, it’s not clear what will become of its local news operation, the only commercial TV newsroom now operating in New Jersey. At least in theory, an independent WMGM could claim a greater degree of cable must-carry, expanding its reach beyond the handful of counties (Atlantic, Cape May, Cumberland) where it’s now seen. But while other edge-of-the-DMA operations (most notably Allentown-based WFMZ-TV) have found success as independent stations with intensive local news, that takes time to build – and Access.1 only has the keys to WMGM for as long as LocusPoint keeps the license alive as a TV station.
WMGM itself has made no official announcement yet about the end of NBC there; we’ll keep you posted as they announce their plans.
*Over at Radio Survivor, Jennifer Waits reports that the faculty at Camden County College has passed a resolution calling on college leaders to drop their plans to sell student station WDBK (91.5 Blackwood). Back in December, the college decided to put WDBK’s license on the market and take its programming web-only; Waits reports there’s been no interest expressed yet from any potential buyers, and the school’s communications department says the FM license is still an important training tool that it hopes to retain for student use.
A bit of translator news: Ted Schober has received a CP for W281BN (104.1 Hammonton), which will relay religious WVBV (90.5 Medford Lakes).
*After four decades in Chicago, Philadelphia and NEW YORK radio, Don Bouloukos will retire from CBS Radio in June, handing over the reins as senior VP/market manager to veteran sales executive Scott Herman.
Bouloukos may be one of the few radio sales guys who got into the business as a result of bartending. In a Radio Ink interview, he recalled working at a Chicago bar in the early 1970s and being impressed with how much money the radio salespeople who frequented the bar seemed to be making. After a start at RKO’s WFYR (103.5), Bouloukos ended up with a long run at WLS (890) during the last years of its Musicradio heyday. Bouloukos came to New York in 1982 as VP/operations for ABC’s owned and operated radio stations, then became president of that division from 1986 until his departure for American Radio Systems in 1996.
As co-COO of ARS, Bouloukos oversaw that company’s merger into CBS Radio. In nearly two decades with the company, he’s served as senior VP for its eastern mid-sized markets and as market manager in Philadelphia. He’s been in command of the New York cluster since late 2007, overseeing changes that have included the launch of top-40 “Now” (WNOW-FM 92.3), the addition of an FM simulcast to sports behemoth WFAN and the recent hiring of Scott Shannon to do mornings on WCBS-FM (101.1).
(Those who were paying very close attention as Shannon was getting ready for his new show might recall the night of practice he did in the studio…under the airname “Don Bouloukos.”)
*One of the strangest stories from the recent LPFM windows is the tale of SUNY Oneonta. The first time the FCC opened applications for low-power FM, the state school won a CP on 104.7 for what became WUOW-LP, a small public radio signal that competed against local relays of out-of-town public signals from Binghamton and Albany.
In 2012, SUNY returned the WUOW-LP license and signed on a new full-power signal, WUOW (88.5 Milford), augmented by a translator in Oneonta itself. And then, a year later, SUNY shut down its radio operation and returned that full-power license to the Commission, even though several other broadcasters had offered to buy the license.
So it was curious, to say the least, to see SUNY applying again during last fall’s LPFM window for a new 104.7 license – and even more curious last week when the new 104.7 CP, granted just a few weeks ago, was deleted. The FCC says it was “at the request of the applicant,” and we’re left wondering (especially given that your editor is also a New York taxpayer) just what’s going on at the school to underlie all these false starts.
On the translator front, Genesee Media has returned the former W286AE (105.1 Fairport) to the air on its new frequency of 105.5, bringing its “Team” CBS Sports Radio format (and Red Sox broadcasts!) to the FM dial all over the east side of Rochester as a relay of WRSB (1310 Canandaigua). West of Rochester, Calvary Chapel of the Finger Lakes has been granted a CP for W261CR (100.1 Darien Center), relaying WZXV (99.7 Palmyra).
Jeff Neal has exited WVIN (98.3)/WABH (1380) in Bath after six years as operations manager; he’s headed to State College, Pennsylvania to take the OM/PD reins at WZWW (95.3 Bellefonte). Replacing him in Bath is Joel Oriend.
*From the awards desk: the New York State Broadcasters Association is moving its Hall of Fame induction from its usual spot up at Bolton Landing on Lake George to the Waldorf-Astoria in Manhattan. This year’s list of inductees includes Albany’s John Cooper (WPYX, WTRY), Syracuse TV reporter Nancy Duffy (WHEN-TV/WTVH, WIXT), WFAN’s Mike Francesa, New York sportscaster Marty Glickman, Buffalo TV station manager Chris Musial (WIVB/WNLO) and reporter Marvin Scott from New York’s WPIX. This year’s induction will take place June 13 as part of NYSBA’s summer conference.
And the Buffalo Broadcasters Association handed out their BEMA (Buffalo Excellence in Media Awards) for the third time earlier in April. The list of winners included WIVB (Channel 4) as TV station of the year, WBFO (88.7) as radio station of the year, WIVB’s Steve Vesey as TV personality of the year, WKSE (98.5)’s Janet Snyder as radio personality of the year and Lauren Hall of WIVB/WNLO as “Rising Star.”
*Returning to MASSACHUSETTS: it appears Barry Scott’s long-running “Lost 45s” show has disappeared from its latest Boston FM home. The show moved to Greater Media’s WROR (105.7 Framingham) in July 2012 after its longtime Boston outlet, CBS Radio’s WODS (103.3), dropped classic hits for top-40 as “AMP Radio.” On Sunday night, though, it was missing from the airwaves and from WROR’s website; we’ve reached out to Scott for an explanation but haven’t heard back yet.
WARL (1320 Attleboro) has quietly taken new calls: it’s now WRNP. No word yet on any format changes at the station, which owner ADD Radio Group has been operating as a leased-time facility last we checked.
On Cape Cod, WBUR has filed for a license to cover for its new relay, WBUH (89.1 Eastham). Mike LeClair and his engineering team worked overtime to get the new 42 kW/180′ class B signal built in just a few short weeks between acquiring the construction permit in early March and the CP’s expiration date last Monday. When it makes its official on-air debut, WBUH will join a roster of Cape Cod WBUR relays that also includes WBUA (92.7 Tisbury) on Martha’s Vineyard and WCCT-FM (90.3 Harwich).
Radio People on the Move: in Boston, Alan Chartrand has been promoted from VP/sales to market manager at Clear Channel’s cluster, which includes WXKS-FM (Kiss 108), WJMN (Jam’n 94.5), WXKS (Bloomberg 1200) and WKOX (Mia 1430). In Worcester, Mark Veau has been promoted to PD of Cumulus’ WORC-FM (98.9 Webster) after a dozen years with the classic hits station.
And a “Where Are They Now?”: former WTKK (96.9 Boston) talker Michael Graham is decamping to Atlanta, where he’s signed on with Cumulus to do a talk show at WYAY (106.7 Gainesville), the increasingly-misnamed “All News 106.7.” Since WTKK’s demise, Graham has been hosting a show at Boston Herald Radio and syndicating to several smaller stations around New England, including WCRN (830 Worcester).
Graham’s last show from Boston will be Friday. On his website, Graham says it wasn’t the marketplace that killed WTKK and his show there – “Conservative political talk was smothered to death by political and social pressure to silence the one meaningful voice of dissent on the airwaves,” he writes – but we wonder what he’d have made of Greater Media market manager Rob Williams’ assertion (at an NAB Show panel earlier this month) that WTKK was “a station that had run its course.”
*Out west, there’s no callsign officially assigned yet for the new LPFM CP on 104.7 in Huntington, but we’re hearing reports that the station is already on the air, using calls “WTTT” and calling itself “Family First FM.” It’s reportedly running what appears to be commercial programming from WCKL (560 Catskill NY). The new LPFM is licensed to an organization that calls itself either “WHAM for BB Inc.” or “WHAB for BB Inc.”, depending on which of its FCC filings you’re looking at – and now we know that it’s somehow tied in with the broadcasting universe of Brian Dodge, who’s dabbled in full-power AM and FM and in translators but hadn’t been involved with an LPFM until now. The “WTTT” e-mail address “WHAB for BB” used in the Huntington application just happens to be the same one Dodge is using in connection with his as-yet-unconsummated purchase of WPNI (1430 Amherst)…the station long known as WTTT.
(As with everything Dodge-related, there’s always still more just below the surface: in addition to “WHAB for BB,” Dodge was also apparently behind a VERMONT LPFM application from “Mountain Top Community Church” in West Brattleboro. Prometheus Radio filed an objection to that application after it was accepted for filing in March, noting that the church isn’t registered with the state as a nonprofit and that it apparently concealed Dodge’s involvement there.)
*In southwest NEW HAMPSHIRE, Saga has completed construction of its new quadplexed FM translator facility in Keene. The project added W298BT (107.5) to existing translators W256BJ (99.1), W276CB (103.1) and W281AU (104.1). Until now, 99.1 (“Keene Classics”) and 103.1 (“KOOL Oldies”) had been fed by subchannels of WKNE (103.7), while 104.1 has been the FM relay of news-talk WKBK (1290); if we’re reading the FCC filings right, the WKBK relay will move to 107.5, while 104.1 will become a relay of ESPN Radio outlet WZBK (1220), on whose tower the translators’ antenna hangs.
*In Rochester, “Rochester Radio” applied to modify its low-power FM proposal to shift from 106.1 to 105.9; that move has now been granted, and it’s now holding a CP for 100-watt operation from a site west of town on 4 Rod Road.
*Of the major network TV stations that serve Portland MAINE, ABC affiliate WMTW (Channel 8) has long been the odd man out when it comes to studio and office location. While NBC affiliate WCSH (Channel 6) has always called Portland’s Congress Square home (the callsign stands for “Congress Square Hotel,” going back to the WCSH radio days) and CBS affiliate WGME (Channel 13) has its offices in Northport Plaza, channel 8 started out with studios at the Riccar Inn way up in its city of license, Poland Spring. Later, WMTW built a studio and office in Auburn, and in the 1990s it opened a Portland newsroom/studio right across the street from WCSH in the “Time and Temperature Building,” while keeping its offices and master control up in Auburn.
Now the Hearst-owned station says it’s ready to make an all-out move to greater Portland. By year’s end, WMTW says it will relocate to a “broadcast-ready” facility in Westbrook, eventually combining all of its current Portland and Auburn operations there.
*Dan Priestly is adding another FM translator to his collection of small AMs and translators around Bangor. He’s paying $25,000 to pick up W291CO (106.1 Ellsworth) from Lighthouse Radio Network, which owns WHCF (88.5 Bangor); in addition to a two-year commitment by Priestly not to sell the translator, the deal includes a clause that the closing won’t happen until a CP is granted to move the translator to one of Priestly’s Bangpr-area AM towers, either WWNZ (1400 Veazey) or WNZS (1340 Veazey).
One of New England’s oldest LPFMs is changing hands. WRFR-LP (93.3 Rockland) has been licensed to Penobscot School since it signed on more than a decade ago, but the FCC has approved its transfer to The Old School, just down the street. No cash will change hands in the transfer.
Way, way Down East, WSHD (91.7 Eastport) will soon be on the move. The Shead High School station filed to trade its 13-watt Class D signal at 91.7 for a 100-watt LPFM on 93.3, and after a delay while waiting for Industry Canada to sign off on the new facility right by the New Brunswick border, it’s now been granted a CP. Shead will return the 91.7 license to the FCC when the new 93.3 (which will presumably be WSHD-LP) signs on as a new license.
*There’s a new LPFM on the air in Manchester, CONNECTICUT. WYPH (102.5) is running contemporary Christian music as “Y102.5,” and we’re hearing its signal is getting out well toward Hartford.
*There’s a station sale at the southern edge of PENNSYLVANIA, where the Chambersburg properties of Main Line Broadcasting are part of the overall sale of Main Line to longtime broadcaster Larry Wilson. Wilson, who’d been a key part of the old Citadel, is merging his two new companies together – L&L broadcasting in the east and Alpha Broadcasting in the west – and then rolling the Main Line stations into them.
Wilson is paying $57 million for the Main Line stations, including clusters in Dayton, Louisville and Richmond as well as the five stations in Chambersburg and just across the state line in Hagerstown, Maryland that were Main Line’s first acquisitions back in 2005: WCHA (800 Chambersburg), WHAG (1410 Halfway MD), WQCM (94.3 Greencastle), WIKZ (95.1 Chambersburg) and WDLD (96.7 Halfway). (Main Line had paid $22.5 million when it acquired those stations from Dame Broadcasting.)
The sale ends Main Line’s existence as a Philadelphia-based company; founding president-CEO Dan Savadove has been out of the picture there since the end of 2011.
*Congratulations to WCLH (90.7 Wilkes-Barre). The Wilkes University station marks its 40th anniversary on Friday with a special “40 Years Locked” event to be held in the school’s student center ballroom.
*In an otherwise very quiet week in CANADA, we have to look way up north to Maliotenam, Quebec for any technical news: aboriginal broadcaster Radio Kushapetsheken is applying to boost CKAU (104.5) there from 50 watts/21m to 6 kW/65m from a new site.
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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 22, 2013
*Let’s get one thing out of the way right at the beginning of this week’s column: if you’re expecting perfect objectivity in our coverage of the week’s events in Boston and the media’s reaction to them, you’re in the wrong place. Your editor cut his teeth in the broadcast news business learning from the professionals at Boston’s WBZ (1030) way back in the 1990s and has always maintained a healthy respect for the quality of the news coverage that’s come out of the newsroom at 1170 Soldiers Field Road. Back then, just as now, Boston Marathon day was, by itself, one of the biggest news days of the year, with all hands already on deck to deliver nonstop coverage of the race and the massive crowds that surround it.
So to have an even bigger news story develop at the end of the big race, and to have that story grow to immense national proportions over what was essentially a nonstop week of coverage that followed, was an enormously big deal. Whatever criticism might justifiably be aimed at the national coverage of the Marathon bombings and the ensuing manhunt, there’s no way we can even begin to second-guess the tremendous local coverage that came out of WBZ radio, its sister TV station, WBZ-TV (Channel 4), or the other local newsrooms that spent the week keeping their community informed and comforted.
In our Wednesday mid-week update, we took a look at the exhaustive (and exhausting) coverage coming from all of those newsrooms early in the week. As the mysteries around the bombing turned into a Thursday-night drama that included the murder of a MIT campus police officer and a high-speed chase into Watertown, Boston’s TV and radio newsrooms once again went into overdrive to cover a second chapter of the story that proved even more dramatic than the first.
When the scanner calls came in about the MIT incident just after 10 on Thursday night, it wasn’t yet clear that it was connected to the bombings, and by the time the magnitude of the story in Cambridge and Watertown really became clear, it was well after 1 AM. The national cable news channels were already in their overnight repeat cycles (indeed, CNN had shut down its domestic control room in Atlanta for the night, leaving only the CNN International crew on duty), and that made channels 4, 5 and 7 the first lines of information for both local and national audiences. (Fox O&O WFXT, channel 25, was a little slower to ramp back up, leaving Fox News Channel with dated video of the MIT scene while CNN and MSNBC had live coverage from Watertown via channels 5 and 7; on radio, it was all WBZ through the overnight hours, largely simulcasting WBZ-TV, while Entercom’s WRKO was stuck with syndicated Red Eye Radio as the night’s dramatic events played out elsewhere.)
And then came Friday morning and one of the strangest days in Boston history. As law enforcement put the city under an effective lockdown, local TV and radio became a vital channel of communication to more than a million Bostonians cooped up in their homes while the streets outside emptied.
This being 2013, of course, radio and TV were hardly the only sources of news for a paralyzed city, and we’d be remiss to downplay the role that social media (especially, in this case, Reddit) played in spreading information about the standoff and manhunt. Where local radio and TV really shone, though, was in spreading accurate information about the standoff and manhunt. Even as they worked unbelievably long hours attempting to fill airtime with little or no new information from the police, the local stations avoided some of the pitfalls that social media and out-of-town news sources were stumbling into, including an especially egregious case of misidentification of the suspected bombers during those overnight hours.
On Friday morning, CBS once again simulcast WBZ’s news coverage on most of its FM stations. Entercom’s stations each went their own way with extensive coverage (with WEEI, in particular, turning away from its usual sports talk to become a source of news and conversation for its loyal audience), and at Greater Media the lockdown kept most of the staff away from the office and most of its stations largely playing music during the day. On the public radio side, WBUR-FM (90.9) once again offered its local coverage to a national audience, as did WGBH (89.7) via “The World.”
Then, of course, everything returned to normal with startling speed: the authorities called off the “shelter in place” order in the 6:00 hour on Friday evening, followed almost immediately by one last round of startling news from Watertown as the last suspect was located and captured and cheering Bostonians flooded back into the streets.
*To the extent there was any other big story in New England this week, it came from MAINE, where Friday brought an abrupt announcement that antenna manufacturer Dielectric is closing up shop in the next few months.
Dielectric’s new antennas on display at the NAB Show this month
Dielectric has made its home in Raymond, north of Portland, since 1954; in 1986, it acquired the antenna business from RCA as that erstwhile giant exited the business, later picking up the Harris antenna line as well, and since 2001, it’s been owned by the technology conglomerate SPX. At first, Dielectric was a profitable piece of SPX, bolstered by the DTV conversion that required thousands of new antennas and untold miles of new transmission line, switching components and combiners. But that process was largely over by 2009, and the subsequent years have been slower ones for Dielectric.
Still, the company made a prominent showing just a few weeks ago at the NAB Show in Las Vegas, with a sizable booth right by the main entrance to the radio exhibit hall and a product lineup that included several new FM and TV antennas – which is why it came as a surprise to many when SPX announced that “extremely difficult global economic conditions in the broadcast marketplace” had led to a decision to close down Dielectric’s operations over the next two months.
*There was one new format in upstate NEW YORK to start the week last week: on Monday, Clear Channel relaunched country on Binghamton-market WBBI (107.5 Endwell), ending a brief trimulcast designed to move WBBI’s former “Big 107.5″ oldies audience down the dial to the new AM/FM combo of WINR (680) and translator W245BV (96.9). The “New Country B107.5″ format now being heard on WBBI returns that format to the frequency after a decade-long absence; now, as then, it’s intended to blunt the ratings of market-leading competitor WHWK (98.1), which is part of the rival Townsquare cluster.
*Radio listeners in NEW JERSEY‘s Monmouth and Ocean counties can be forgiven if they’re a little confused this week, what with all the format shuffling now underway at two clusters. At Press Communications, the new brand on WWZY (107.1 Long Branch) is simply… “107.1 FM.” The former “Breeze” has ditched some of its softer AC tunes and is leaning more current than it did in its Breeze days, and it’s subtitling itself as “A Music Radio Station.” For now, it’s jockless in middays and afternoons after shedding most of its former airstaff, but today will bring a morning show to the station as Nina Siciliano and Tom Devoy’s “Pork Roll and Eggs” show slides up the dial from sister station WBBO (98.5). WBBO, in turn, gets a new morning show hosted by its current midday jock, Kelso, and its night jock, Sara Cucci.
Meanwhile at Greater Media, WJRZ (100.1 Manahawkin) is making a bid for some of the listeners who might be displaced by WWZY’s shift from classic to current. After three years as a straight-ahead AC sharing the “Magic” branding with Greater sister station WMGQ (98.3 New Brunswick), WJRZ moves to classic hits today, reports RadioInsight, returning to a format it used from 2000-2009.
Five Years Ago: April 20, 2009
There was at least a bit of NERW-land presence at Tuesday’s NAB Show radio luncheon, where WGY (810 Schenectady) was one of ten stations nationwide honored with an NAB Crystal Radio Award – and those awards are getting some extra attention this year as the NAB pushes its community-service initiatives.
And one more sad note from back home: we’ve just received word that Bill Corbeil, the 40-year-old co-owner of WTSA AM/FM in Brattleboro, Vermont, succumbed to cancer yesterday. It was just a year and a half ago when Corbeil and his wife Kelli bought the stations, and since then they’d been busy moving them to new studios and building a real community connection in that small market. Our deepest condolences to Kelli, the two young Corbeil boys, and to the entire WTSA family…
It was PENNSYLVANIA making the news all last week, first with the death of Harry Kalas (about whom, much more in a moment), then with the possible demise of once-legendary WARM (590 Scranton). The AM station that once pulled a 70 share in the Electric City had long since become a forgotten spot on the dial even before falling completely silent a few weeks ago. Under current owner Citadel, transmitter maintenance was all but nonexistent in recent years, reducing WARM’s once-booming voice across all of northeast Pennsylvania to a staticky, undermodulated signal that would have been hard to listen to, even if it had been programming anything listeners still cared about. (Not that it was; the most recent in a long string of automated formats was Citadel’s “True Oldies Channel.”) WARM had occasionally gone off the air for short periods over the last couple of years, but the latest silent period may be more permanent. Citadel isn’t talking about the future of the station, but NERW’s hearing that the company is unwilling to make the big investment needed to reverse years of neglected work at the station’s tower site, including a non-existent ground system and two nonworking transmitters.
Could the legendary WARM really be gone for good this time? We’d bet that it will at least be resurrected in time to avoid the loss of its license after a year of silence. Citadel has reportedly turned down several offers to buy the station in recent years, and might be even less likely to accept a lowball offer now that station prices are sagging. Any new owner would, of course, have a lot of work to do to get the signal humming again. But a new owner would also inherit plenty of good will from the community, at least if the coverage of WARM’s apparent demise is any indication; the story led the TV news late last week, a rarity for any story about radio.
And of course Philadelphia – along with sports fans across the nation – is mourning Harry Kalas, who died last Monday in the place he loved best, the Phillies broadcast booth. Kalas was getting ready for a day game against the Washington Nationals when he collapsed; he died a short time later at a DC hospital. Kalas, 73, was one of the longest-serving announcers in baseball, having started in 1963 with the Houston Colt .45s before moving to Philadelphia in 1971. When the Phillies won the championship in 1980, Kalas wasn’t behind the mike, thanks to an MLB rule that gave the networks exclusive World Series radio rights. That rule was changed soon afterward, allowing local broadcasters to call the games on each team’s flagship station; as a result, Kalas finally got to call a Phillies Series win last fall, capping a magnificent career. In addition to his baseball work, Kalas succeeded Philly’s John Facenda as the voice of NFL Films in 1975, making his rich baritone familiar to fans everywhere (and even to some non-fans who’ve tuned in to Animal Planet’s “Puppy Bowl,” which also featured Kalas.) On Saturday, Phillies fans honored Kalas by packing Citizens Bank Park to pay their respects to Kalas’ casket, which was placed behind home plate. The team is also displaying a memorial patch on its uniforms for the rest of the season.
Ten Years Ago: April 19, 2004
MAINE radio listeners are finding their way around the many changes in the radio dial wrought by Nassau last week, and now we can report a slew of call changes, too: “The Bone,” the simulcast of classic rock and Howard Stern on 104.7 and 106.7, is now WHXQ (104.7 Kennebunkport, ex-WQEZ) and WHXR (106.7 North Windham, ex-WMTW-FM). “Frank” on 107.5 Lewiston is now WFNK, formerly WTHT. We assume the WTHT calls will replace WMEK on 99.9 Auburn, the new home of the “Wolf” country format formerly on 107.5, but that call change hasn’t been filed. WLAM (1470 Lewiston) keeps its calls, and WMTW (870 Gorham) becomes WLVP, which we’re guessing stands for “Liberal Voice of Portland.”
It’s “Know-Nothings on Parade” yet again in Charlotte, VERMONT, where a fight continues over the Pease Mountain transmitter tower of WIZN (106.7 Vergennes). Vermont’s Environmental Board was scheduled to hear testimony last week about whether to revoke the land-use permit granted in 1999 (after the station had already been in place on the mountain for 12 years) over the NIMBYish howls of the neighbors. (We’ve been to Pease Mountain, and the site is nearly impossible to see from any distance.)
The neighbors’ attorney (who, we’ll editorialize, apparently never heard of the inverse-square rule) told the Associated Press that “it’s clear that there is radiation in the community. The energy from the signal heats human tissue.” (NERW wonders if he was talking on a hand-held cellphone at the time.)
Fifteen Years Ago: April 16, 1999
The nights will soon sound different on Boston’s WBZ (1030), as one of the CBS station’s talk hosts retires and another cuts back on his workload. Bob Raleigh told listeners this week that he’ll leave WBZ when he turns 65 June 9. Raleigh has been gradually shedding overnight hours for the last few years, going from five nights a week down to three, and giving WBZ a chance to try out some potential replacements, including Steve LeVeille, Jordan Rich, and Kevin Sowyrda. No permanent replacement for Raleigh has been named so far, and if the precedent set by the death of weekend overnight host Norm Nathan a few years back holds, it’s likely the station will take its time with the decision.
The pre-midnight landscape on WBZ is shifting as well. David Brudnoy asked station management to cut his weeknight show back two hours, ending at 10 PM instead of the present midnight. Brudnoy tells the Herald’s Dean Johnson that the decision has nothing to do with the AIDS virus that took him off the air entirely back in 1995, just that five hours of radio each night, in addition to his many other duties as college professor, movie reviewer, and commentator, leave him “tired.” A new talk host will be hired for the 10-midnight slot; again, no names have surfaced (although NERW can’t ignore the newsgroup buzz that’s suggesting a Gene Burns return from the West Coast would be well-received).
Elsewhere in MASSACHUSETTS, the end of 65 years of English-language radio at WLLH (1400 Lowell/Lawrence) is finally in sight. The station has been running promos all week asking listeners to follow WLLH personalities (including newsman Bob Ellis) down the dial to “the New 800 WCCM.” Mega Broadcasting is expected to begin programming WLLH from its Charlestown WBPS/WNFT studios next week. (Another English-language institution, also dating back to 1934, also comes to a close at midnight Saturday, as Mutual’s last radio newscast hits the airwaves. While it had probably outlived its usefulness, it still seems strange to think that the words “Mutual News” will never be heard again.)
Entercom now has its new calls for “Star 93.7,” with the FCC’s approval of WQSX for the former WEGQ Lawrence-Boston. An unintentional meaning to the new calls, noted by WCAP’s Bill O’Neill (who, by the way, is someone we’d listen to on WBZ overnight!): “SX” for “Essex” County, where the station’s city of license is located. Of course, the AM in Salem beat them to it…
In RHODE ISLAND, morning host Mike Butts has parted ways with WPRO-FM (92.3 Providence) after a long run with the Citadel-owned CHR. Midday jock Giovanni is taking over mornings, and Pro-FM is looking for a new midday host.
The big news in VERMONT is the sale of one of the Green Mountain State’s most powerful FM signals. Albany Broadcasting is buying WJJR (98.1 Rutland), along with “Cat Country” simulcast WJEN (94.5 Rutland) and WJAN (95.1 Sunderland), for a reported $6.1 million. WJJR’s mountaintop transmitter covers most of Vermont, a good chunk of New Hampshire, and a swath of eastern New York north of Albany, where its new owner already controls news-talk WROW (590), CHR WFLY (92.3 Troy), AC WYJB (95.5), and dance-CHR WAJZ (96.3 Voorheesville). Will format changes be in order? We’ll keep you posted.
We’ll start NEW YORK’s news with a format change in the Watertown market. WOTT (100.7 Henderson) dropped its “Fun Oldies” format after just over a year, resurfacing Wednesday morning as “Real Rock,” claiming to play “the best classic rock and the best new rock.” The Clancy-Mance station becomes a direct competitor to Forever’s WCIZ (93.3 Watertown). Former morning host Mike “The Colonel” White will move over to sister station WATN (1240 Watertown) to replace Nat Natali, who retires at month’s end. Mornings on the new WOTT will be handled by the syndicated “Bob and Tom” show from Indianapolis.