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 29, 2013
*Radio regulation in CANADA can be a funny thing sometimes. Just ask the CBC, which abruptly had to pull its local morning show off the air in Kitchener, Ontario, only to restore it at week’s end.
There was never any dispute over the CBC’s ability to broadcast over CBLA-FM-2 (89.1 Paris), the CBC Radio One outlet serving the Kitchener-Waterloo area – just over which programming was allowed to be broadcast on that signal based on the station’s existing license. When the FM station went on the air back in 1999, it did so as one of several new FM “transmitters” attached to the license for CBLA-FM (99.1 Toronto), the FM replacement for the old CBL (740) and its wide-area AM signal.
Last November, the CBC applied to convert the 89.1 signal from a “transmitter” of CBLA-FM to its own separate license, which would allow (and indeed require) the station to originate its own programming rather than relaying the Toronto local programs. In March, the CBC made a high-profile launch of a new morning show for Kitchener-Waterloo on both 89.1 and online. And then, last week, a complaint from a rival commercial broadcaster made the CRTC aware that the CBC had made that on-air launch before the agency had actually approved the November application to grant a new license for a “station,” rather than a “transmitter,” at Paris.
That’s why, for a few days last week, the CBLA-FM-2 signal was back to rebroadcasting the Toronto morning show while the local Kitchener-Waterloo show was being heard only via streaming audio. Fortunately for the CBC, its friends at the CRTC moved quickly: on Thursday, they granted the November application for a new station license for 89.1, and by Friday morning, the local show was back on the air for Kitchener-Waterloo and vicinity.
*In a blessedly quiet week in MASSACHUSETTS, the big news came from the New England Patriots and flagship station WBZ-FM (98.5 the Sports Hub), where there’s now a successor to 36-season play-by-play voice Gil Santos. When the Pats start playing this fall, the announcer in the booth will be Bob Socci, He’s spent the last 16 years calling Navy football games, which is where he caught the ear of Pats owner (and Navy football fan) Bob Kraft; he’s also been the radio voice of the Pawtucket Red Sox, the Norfolk Tides and the Albuquerque Isotopes. Socci will work alongside Scott Zolak, who returns for a second season of color commentary in the Pats’ radio booth.
An update on last week’s mention of David Ortiz’ “fleeting expletive” issue: while the exuberant F-bomb was certainly heard on the NECN TV broadcast, which isn’t covered by FCC obscenity rules, there’s some debate about whether it was ever heard on broadcast radio. WEEI’s Jason Wolfe tells the Los Angeles Times that the pre-game show a week ago Saturday was running through a delay on flagship WEEI-FM (93.7 Lawrence-Boston) and Big Papi was bleeped before his comments hit the airwaves. But Wolfe also says the Red Sox network broadcast wasn’t running through the delay, and so it’s possible some stations elsewhere on the network may have carried the comments unbleeped. (And we continue to stand with number 34: Boston’s our F-ing city, too!)
Five Years Ago: April 27, 2009
By itself, the story of Scranton, PENNSYLVANIA’s WARM (590) is a fairly common one: a once-dominant AM station falls on hard times, fades from public attention, gets neglected in a cluster full of bigger FM sister stations, and ends up as not much more than a satellite dish connected to a transmitter. But the last couple of weeks in WARM-land have been unusual ones, and worthy of special note for anyone who’s still even mildly hopeful that there’s still some life remaining in the bigger corners of the AM dial.
As we told you last week, the overall lack of maintenance at WARM’s five-tower transmitter site finally took its toll earlier this month, taking the station off the air. That wasn’t WARM’s first silent period, but for whatever reason, this one got the attention of the local media, which made WARM’s absence – and rumors of its outright demise – a lead story on TV newscasts and in the local papers. Whatever Citadel’s original plans for WARM might have been, all that attention seemed to light a fire under the company, and by Thursday there was once again a signal on the air at 590 over Scranton, still carrying the True Oldies Channel satellite format that WARM has been running for the last few years.
End of story? Maybe, maybe not – because even if Citadel is prepared to let WARM continue to linger in a near-death fugue state, there’s still ample evidence that at least in this one case, the listeners who once loved this AM station aren’t ready to let go of their memories yet. Consider, for instance, the front page of Sunday’s Wilkes-Barre Times Leader. What’s that lead story taking up most of the page? It’s WARM’s longtime morning man, Harry West, sharing his memories of life as one of the “Sensational Seven” DJs, with avid listeners everywhere from north Jersey to Binghamton.
Times change, to be sure, and we’d never dream of suggesting that a station like WARM – even if restored to its full-throated 5,000-watt glory – could ever attract more than a small fraction of the 70 shares it once pulled in Scranton. But in a market that’s full of older listeners, most of them native to the area, it’s hard to believe there’s not some way that all those “warm” feelings still out there about this legendary radio station couldn’t be harnessed, with a bit of an investment, into a new WARM that could keep alive at least some of the magic of the old “Mighty 590.” If Citadel’s not up to the challenge, will it at long last find a buyer who is?
One obituary of note this week: Merv Ainsworth was one of the founding fathers of television in central New York, moving from WKAL radio in Rome to WKTV in Utica back in 1950, just a year after the station had signed on. In 42 years with WKTV, Ainsworth built a remote-control system for the station’s transmitter site – and by 1980 rose to the post of chief engineer, which he held until his retirement in 1992. Ainsworth also helped build WUFM (107.3) in Utica in 1962. He died last Sunday (April 19) at 83.
In NEW JERSEY, there’s more news from the new “Wibbage-FM,” WILW (94.3 Avalon) – in addition to a pending call change to WIBG-FM, the oldies station has signed Philadelphia radio legend Jim Nettleton to do mornings, and it’s picking up Sam Lit’s “HyLitRadio” service for overnights, complete with vintage Philly airchecks.
In NEW HAMPSHIRE, the strange saga of Aaron Aldridge came to a resolution Tuesday night – and it happened just an hour or so down the road from the NAB convention in Las Vegas. Police in California spotted Aldridge’s car on I-15 near the Nevada border, ending a nationwide manhunt for the former WNTK (99.7 New London)/WUVR (1490 Lebanon) morning man, who’s now behind bars and facing a series of charges as a fugitive from justice and for the possession and production of child pornography, some of it reportedly featuring his teenage daughter.
In MASSACHUSETTS, a familiar TV face is coming to the radio airwaves. Mike Macklin, a veteran of the reporting staffs at WHDH-TV (Channel 7) and WBZ-TV (Channel 4), has signed on with WBZ (1030) as a reporter/anchor, adding some heft to a news staff that’s been hit hard by cutbacks and retirements in recent months.
Up the AM dial a bit, Clear Channel has finally finished the last bits of work needed to get WKOX (1200 Newton) to a full 50,000 watts day and night from the transmitter site in Oak Hill it now shares with WRCA (1330 Watertown) and WUNR (1600 Brookline). As the first directional array to be licensed under the new rules allowing for computer modeling in place of the laborious proofing process, WKOX’s upgrade was the subject of an engineering paper presented out at the NAB Show; someday, perhaps, they’ll write a book about all the hurdles that the three stations had to overcome to get this new site on the air. (And long before that happens, we’ll feature it on Tower Site of the Week soon…)
Ten Years Ago: April 26, 2004
Entercom will still end up with western NEW YORK’s FM sports station, but a last-minute bidding war means the price tag for WNSA (107.7 Wethersfield Township) will be $1.5 million higher than expected. Late last week, Entercom’s Buffalo rival Citadel put in a $9,350,000 bid for the signal, topping Entercom’s initial $9 million offer to buy WNSA out of the Adelphia bankruptcy. That move (a reaction, perhaps, to speculation that Entercom plans to use 107.7 to go after Citadel’s market-leading rocker WGRF?) touched off a telephone auction Friday that ended with a $10.5 million bid by Entercom. A federal bankruptcy court could approve the station’s transfer as early as today; the buzz within the market still suggests that Entercom will move WNSA’s Sabres rights and perhaps a few of its sports talk hosts over to WGR (550 Buffalo) and take 107.7 to some sort of rock format. Stay tuned…
Two of the state’s smallest TV stations are getting a new owner. Equity Broadcasting, the Little Rock-based station group that’s become a big owner of small stations, is buying WNGS (Channel 67) in Springville from Caroline Powley and WNYI (Channel 52) in Ithaca from Powley’s husband Bill Smith. Equity will pay $5 million for WNGS, which serves the Buffalo market on cable, though the deal’s price will be reduced by $1 million if WNGS-DT’s channel 46 application, which would serve the full Buffalo market from the WKBW-TV tower in Colden, isn’t approved within three years. The deal for WNYI, which also includes KWWF (Channel 22) in Waterloo, Iowa, is also for $5 million, again with a $1 million discount if WNYI’s application for a Syracuse-market upgrade isn’t approved within three years.
Citadel is entering western MASSACHUSETTS in a big way. It’s paying $22 million to buy WMAS-FM (94.7 Springfield) and WMAS (1450 Springfield) from Lappin Communications, one of the last big local owners in the region. (Inside Radio reports that Citadel had competition: Pamal’s Jim Morrell and veteran New England station owner Jeff Wilks both made offers to Bob Lappin as well.) The WMAS purchase gives Citadel a western foothold to add to its holdings in Worcester (WORC-FM, WWFX, WXLO) and Providence/New Bedford (WPRO AM-FM, WSKO AM-FM, WKKB, WWLI, WWKX/WAKX, WBSM, WFHN); we’ll have to wait and see whether any changes are in store for the FM’s AC format or the AM’s standards.
Trenton, NEW JERSEY and the 97.5 FM facility have been linked together for more than forty years, way back to the WTOA days – but now Nassau is asking the FCC to reallocate what’s now WPST (the “T” even stands for Trenton) to Burlington, closer in to Philadelphia. Nassau’s application doesn’t call for any change in WPST’s transmitter site – but since it’s a grandfathered pre-1964 allocation, WPST should be able to make a physical move closer to Philly once its city-of-license change is granted, even though it’s already significantly short-spaced to WOGL (98.1 Philadelphia) and several other stations.
Fifteen Years Ago: April 23, 1999
There’s a format change on the way in NEW YORK’s capital city, as Albany’s WABY (1400) prepares to drop music during the day in favor of an all-news format. The station’s new owner, Tele-Media, is contracting with Metro Networks to provide local news inserts to CNN Headline News from 5 AM until 7 PM weekdays. The rest of the time, WABY(AM) will continue to simulcast the soft AC format of WABY-FM (94.5 Ravena). In recent years, the AM station has been all but ignored on-air and in promotions. Meanwhile on the FM side, afternoon host David Allen is moving to mornings.
In Syracuse, one of the market’s oldest stations is about to get fitted for its mouse ears. WOLF (1490) will switch from satellite talk to Radio Disney May 3, along with simulcast partners WOLF-FM (96.7 Oswego) and WKGJ (1340 Auburn). Also in the Salt City, we note that WVOA (105.1 DeRuyter) has told the FCC it has no interest in moving city of license to Chittenango anymore, so the matter has been dropped for now.
In CONNECTICUT, there’s a new format at WKCD (107.7 Pawcatuck), as the smooth jazz gives way to a modern AC sound known on-air as “Channel 107-7, New Music for the New Millennium.” WKCD is looking for an airstaff, in care of sister station Hot 106 (WWKX/WAKX) up in Woonsocket — or, as they pronounce it, “Providence.” We note a nice little three-state rivalry between Back Bay Broadcasting, which owns WKCD and Hot 106, and Spring Broadcasting, whose “Fun 107” (WFHN 107.1 New Bedford MA) competes against Hot in Rhode Island and southeast Massachusetts, and whose WQGN (105.5 Groton CT) competes against the new WKCD.
As we’d suspected, there’s been a format change in the Burlington, VERMONT market. WEAV (960), which is actually licensed across the lake in Plattsburgh NY, went all-talk last week. The Capstar station’s lineup begins with Imus (who’s no longer being heard on sister country station WXPS “Kix” 96.7) and continues with Mike Gallagher, Dr. Joy Browne, Don & Mike, the Fabulous Sports Babe, the Dolans, and overnights and weekends from the WOR Network. The WEAV signal has never been tremendously good on the Vermont side of the lake, and it will be interesting to see how the station competes with established news-talkers WVMT (620) and WKDR (1390) right in Burlington.