In this week’s issue… Dodge-related LPFMs draw protests – Catholic radio comes to NYC – Is “Now” getting “Amped”? – Four more years for Matty – PA’s Bud Brown retires
By SCOTT FYBUSH
*There are few broadcasters we’ve been writing about in this space for as long as Brian Dodge.
Way back in the earliest days of this column, one of our first special reports covered an extensive complaint filed against Dodge by competitor Carter Broadcasting. In the years since, we’ve reported on Dodge’s brushes with FCC regulations and with the law in general as he’s bounced around (and briefly out of) New England and vicinity.
Those adventures over the years included a long stint running WWNH (1340 Madbury), the Seacoast religious station that never actually received a license, operating for more than 20 years under a construction permit or no authorization at all. More recently, Dodge ended up in the Hudson Valley, running what’s left of WCKL (560 Catskill), apparently from a site other than the licensed one, where landlord Clear Channel evicted the station from its original directional array. (There’s also an unlicensed FM translator that’s popped on and off the air in recent years.) And more recently still, Dodge was part of a never-consummated deal to buy silent WPNI (1430 Amherst) from Pamal Broadcasting.
Last week, we noted that Dodge was getting into the low-power FM game. This week, we can tell you that he’s not only in the LPFM game, but (as is so typical of Dodge) once again apparently seeking to bend, if not outright twist, the one-to-a-customer rule that’s supposed to be one of the principles of the LPFM service.
In addition to the “WHAB for BB Inc.” 104.7 Huntington, MASSACHUSETTS grant that’s already on the air, still without a callsign, last week’s batch of FCC LPFM actions included at least two more signals that strongly point back to Dodge.
In Westhampton, a group called “Hilltown Christmas Stocking” was granted a new LPFM on 97.7 last week, and while it was filed under the name “Tim Allen,” every other bit of the application is consistent with Dodge’s work, including the use of a common e-mail address with the WHAB application and several others. As with “WHAB” and other apparent Dodge fronts, there’s no evidence beyond the application itself that this applicant even exists – there’s no web presence apart from a domain registration from 2009 that’s now for sale, for instance, and the only reference we can find to a “Hilltown Christmas Stocking” anywhere else comes from what appears to be another Dodge-related LPFM grant that slipped through the cracks.
That would be the 99.7 “Norwich Hill” application that was granted in February to one “RM Welch,” who’s variously either the “pastor” or “engineering director” of one “Hilltown Community Church,” using the same e-mail addresses as the other Dodge-related applications. In substantiating its own local existence, “Hilltown Community Church” tells the FCC it’s been around for at least five years, having “worked with groups like the Hilltown Christmas Stocking.”
Trace back the phone number for “Hilltown Community Church,” and what do you find? Listings for “Family Broadcasting” and “Love Radio Network,” two familiar Dodge aliases – and, unsurprisingly, no sign of a church or an “RM Welch.” But that same phone number, and that same e-mail, are also associated with another LPFM grant that came out of the FCC last week, the shiny new CP on 103.3 in Worthington for “Hilltown Community Arts,” with an address just up the street from the one used in the “Hilltown Community Church” application.
This one lists a “Jerry Smith” as the sole director of the organization, which reports its mission to the FCC as – and we quote –
“THERE IS A LACK OF BEING ABLE TO EDUCATE PEOPLE ON WHAT IS GOING ON. THIS STATION WOULD HELP WITH THAT PROBLEM. THAT WHAT WE WISH TO DO TEACH PEOPLE ABOUT THE ARTS>”
Those “Arts” groups, in turn, appear to have been a frequent Dodge front this time around. We didn’t pay much attention to the “Hampshire Arts Con” that won a CP for 103.1 in Amherst in March, but tracking that one down a little more closely shows all the same Dodge fingerprints: an organization that shows no sign of actually existing outside of its own application, a street address that uses only a state route number, the better to avoid actually tracing the lack of a real entity at that address – and, in this case, an Amherst phone number that traces straight back to one “B DODGE.” (And which happens to be the same number on the “WTTT 1430” business cards Dodge has been distributing around the Pioneer Valley, to boot.)
This week’s grants included yet another “Arts” group: “Highland Arts Club,” which was granted a CP for 103.1 in Goshen after telling the FCC that “IF GRANT THE ARTS WILL BE A MAIN SUBJECT AND TEACH PEOPLE ABOUT THE ARTS AND ART EVENTS WILL HELP TO EXPAND ART AND MUSIC IN OUR SERVICE AREA.” By now, NERW readers will be not at all surprised to find out that at least one of the phone numbers on the Goshen app, allegedly filed by one “MS Jones,” is shared with the Amherst CP, nor that the address (“47Rt9”) matches the pattern, too.
In fact, this past week’s LPFM grants in western Massachusetts were nearly a clean sweep of apparent Dodge fronts: in Williamsburg, the 97.9 granted to “Marcia Welch” of “Citizens for a Better Hilltowns” uses the Amherst “1430” phone number and Belchertown address that trace back to Dodge, and it’s filed by that same “Tim Allen” of “Christmas Stocking” fame.
(And both “Tim Allen” and Dodge himself are listed as being part of an area business association, where they claim to be operating the “Hilltown Radio Network: 97.7 FM, 99.7 FM, 103.1 FM, 104.7 FM”)
The only clearly non-Dodge application in the batch of CPs this week is the return of an FM signal for the Northfield-Mount Hermon School, which gave up its old full-power WNMH (91.5) a few years back. It’s now been granted 106.7 at Mount Hermon, but even that has an intersection with Dodge: NMH had to revise its application to avoid a conflict with the recently-granted CP for 106.7 in West Brattleboro, Vermont.
As we noted last week, that “Mountain Top Community Church” application was accepted for filing by the FCC, only to draw an objection from Prometheus Radio, which pointed out the rather transparent Dodge connections. And that drew a downright remarkable response from “Mountain Top” last week, explaining that “DO TO LIKENESS OF GROUPS OUR CONSULTANT INCLUDED AN EXHIBIT FROM STATE OF VERMONT THAT WAS NOT CORRECT,” going on to “clarify” that the Mountain Top group to which Prometheus referred was a different organization from more than a decade ago, and winding up with “WE ARE IN NO WAY RELATED TO THE DODGE FAMILY!!!”
*So what happens next?
The ball is now partially in the FCC’s court, and partially in the hands of other broadcasters and concerned listeners in the areas Dodge proposes to serve. Given how many thousands of applications the FCC processed in the space of just a few months after the LPFM window closed in November, there’s probably no way the Commission could have picked out all of the details of questionable applications like these.
Once they’ve been noticed, though, cases like these deserve more FCC attention than they’re getting. Dodge is a known quantity by now at the Commission, trailing a long list of unbuilt or revoked CPs, extralegal operation and other violations behind him. His applications are distinctive enough (and not in a good way) that they’re easy to spot when you know what you’re looking for.
And yet – 17 years and counting after that original complaint was filed by Carter Broadcasting, the FCC has, remarkably, still failed to take decisive action on it. While the pending complaints have kept the translators involved from getting full license renewals, FCC policy allows them to keep operating in the meantime, and several of them remain active at least in FCC records, if not on the air. (Ironically, at least one of those translators from the 1997 complaint shows the very same Brattleboro address listed in the “West Brattleboro” LPFM application this year.)
Will someone challenge Dodge’s latest LPFM grants this time around? And will this be the time it sticks? As always, we’ll be watching closely to see what, if anything, actually happens.
*One of the longest-running hosts in Boston radio history will be around a while longer.
Matty Siegel has been the morning man at WXKS-FM (Kiss 108) since 1981, and the contract extension he signed last week takes the end of his current deal with the station from 2016 all the way to 2018. Siegel’s 64 now, which means he’ll be 68 by the time this contract runs out, but he’s stayed at or near the top of the ratings all this time, and extending his contract was apparently a priority for new market manager Alan Chartrand when he took over the post just a few weeks ago.
Glenn Beck’s syndicated talk show has lost a lot of its first-tier clearances around the country, but the departure of another talk host has opened some second-tier clearances to put Beck back on the air near Boston. Starting today, he’ll take over Michael Graham’s former noon slot on Barry Armstrong’s Money Matters stations, WBNW (1120 Concord), WESO (970 Southbridge) and WPLM (1390 Plymouth).
*Alex Langer is seeking a power increase for the AM station he recently moved within Boston city limits. WZBR (1410 Dedham) is the former Brockton-licensed WMSX, and it’s been operating under program test authority with 610 watts by day for the last few months. With new measurements in hand, Langer and consultant Charles Hecht are asking the FCC to let them boost WZBR’s day power to 2300 watts from its Valcom whip antenna in Readville. Night power for the station would stay at just 25 watts.
To the south, Steve Callahan has been granted a construction permit to relocate WVBF (1530 Middleborough Center). Callahan plans to move WVBF to the former WPEP (1570 Taunton) site, boosting the station’s power from its present 2200 watts daytime to 5000 watts, directional; at night, it would still run just 4 watts.
Radio People on the Move: After a stint working for a Harley-Davidson dealer, Cat Wilson returns to radio as promotion manager for Cape Cod Broadcasting’s four-station cluster. Wilson will also host two weekend specialty shows for WOCN (104.7), reviving the “Cheap Seats” local music show she used to do at WCIB (101.9) and starting a new show, “Crafted for the Cape,” showcasing singer-songwriters from the 1970s and 1980s.
It’s been a long time in production, but the documentary on John Garabedian’s short-lived UHF music video channel made its premiere yesterday at the Somerville Theater. WVJV (Channel 66) had an influence that far exceeded its brief run on the air, launching careers and memories that have survived for nearly thirty years now. “Life on the V: The Story of V66” appeared as part of the Independent Film Festival Boston, and we expect it will get additional screenings in the months to come.
*Full-time Catholic radio is coming to NEW YORK City. The format has been one of the rare spots of intense growth in the industry in the last decade or so, with a handful of Catholic broadcasters among the few groups still spending heavily on new station acquisitions. Wisconsin-based Starboard Media Foundation has been one of the biggest, putting “Relevant Radio” outlets on the air everywhere from Minneapolis to Chicago to Providence (WSJW 550 Pawtucket) – and now it’s spending $10.1 million to buy a signal that wasn’t even openly for sale.
WNSW (1430 Newark NJ) has been part of Arthur Liu’s Multicultural cluster since 1998, when he acquired then-WNJR along with several other Douglas Broadcasting stations. Liu moved 1430 closer to New York City, diplexing it with WPAT (930 Paterson) and boosting daytime power from 5 kW to 10 kW. Most recently, WNSW has been leased to Spanish-language religious operator Radio Cantico Nuevo, but it will go full-time Catholic when the sale to Starboard closes.
(Coincidentally, the nation’s other largest market, Los Angeles, is also getting full-time Catholic radio with the sale of leased-time KTYM 1460 Inglewood to West Coast operator Immaculate Heart Radio.)
With the sale, Liu drops from six to five leased-time AMs in the market – WPAT, WKDM (1380 New York), WZRC (1480 New York) and WWRU (1660 Jersey City NJ), as well as daytimer WJDM (1530 Elizabeth NJ), which is apparently still counted (at least for ownership cap purposes) as a single station with its expanded-band offshoot WWRU. That, in turn, opens up space under the cap for Liu to add another AM down the road if one becomes available. (Radio Disney’s WQEW, perhaps?)…but in the meantime, two of Liu’s existing AMs were also in the news last week.
WWRU (1660), which broadcasts in Korean, is part of yet another new twist in the long-running saga of Michael Celenza’s New York City translator, W292DV (106.3). While it’s been on the books for some time as a relay of WVIP (93.5 New Rochelle), it’s now changed its primary station to WWRU. The move will improve the reach of “Radio Korea” to the very sizable Korean community in Queens.
And WKDM (1380), which runs Chinese during the week and Spanish on the weekend, is taking another stab at a power increase. WKDM first applied back in 2007 to increase its night power from 5 kW to 13 kW, still using its existing four towers just north of the Meadowlands sports complex. That CP has expired unbuilt twice now, but WKDM has once again applied for a fresh CP for the move. WKDM’s day power would remain at 5 kW.
*Is there a branding change on the way for CBS Radio in New York City? Over at RadioInsight, Lance Venta picked up last week on a set of domain registrations that were filed by CBS’ usual registrar, all pointing to a “92.3 AMP FM.”
Could “AMP” be the replacement for “NOW” on WNOW-FM (92.3), the top-40 challenger that’s struggled against Clear Channel’s behemoth Z100 (WHTZ 100.3)? Nobody’s saying yet, and a simple name change by itself probably isn’t going to move the needle against the long-established Z. But as CBS continues to roll out the “AMP” branding nationwide, having an “AMP” instead of a “NOW” in the number-one market would surely aid the company’s national sales and promotions.
In what may or may not be a related development, WNOW imaging director Terrence “T-Storm” Battle has departed the station, with no replacement named yet.
*Don Imus is dropping hints that his time on WABC (770) may be nearing an end. The venerable morning man told listeners on Thursday that he’s planning to move to Texas and hoping to have a new studio built there for him. The 73-year-old Imus, whose contract with WABC and Cumulus runs through the end of 2015, went on to say that when he’s done with his show, it will happen with no notice: he’ll announce it’s his last show and leave.
If and when that happens, WABC is as well-poised as it’s been in years to fill the void, since Curtis Sliwa and Ron Kuby are waiting in the virtual wings of middays. Would WABC and Cumulus still go to any great extent to keep an aging Imus happy?
*Moving upstate, Sunrise Broadcasting has hit the big “undo” button on the changes it made just a months ago. WGNY (1220 Newburgh) is dropping its simulcast of oldies WGNY-FM (98.9 Rosendale) and returning to ESPN Radio. It’s picking up two new translators in the process, taking W231BP (94.1 Chester/Middletown) and W239BL (95.7 Poughkeepsie) away from the “Drive FX” dance format that survives on WGNY-FM’s HD3 and streaming.
Sunrise is also reversing some of its talent moves, bringing Van Ritshie back to WGNY-FM’s morning drive from middays and returning Bob and Lori to sister station WJGK (103.1 Newburgh) after a month on WGNY-FM.
*Terry O’Donnell is on the move within Clear Channel, leaving the PD post at the Poughkeepsie cluster to become operations manager and PD for WHYN (560), WHYN-FM (93.1) and WRNX (100.9) in the Springfield market. Kevin Johnson had been PD there, but is apparently now focusing on WSRS (96.1) in Worcester.
*It’s a big move up for “Tanch”: the PD at Pamal’s WZMR (104.9 Altamont), known to the DMV as Jaimie Tanchyk, is departing “the Peak” and moving across the country to become assistant PD and afternoon jock at Entercom’s KHTP (Hot 103.7) in Seattle. No replacement has been named yet in Albany. Also moving up in the market rankings is Maria Leaf: the veteran of WSYR in Syracuse, KDKA in Pittsburgh and most recently weekends/fill-in at WHAM here in Rochester starts this week as afternoon news anchor at Cumulus’ WMAL (630/105.9) in Washington, D.C. Congratulations, Maria!
Where Are They Now?: Longtime Albany morning man John Mulrooney is on Long Island these days, hosting a daily “Mulrooney in the Morning” comedy show that originates from Governor’s Comedy Club in Levittown as part of the club’s GovsRadio.com streaming service. After launching the show in February, Newsday reports it’s become popular enough that it’s been picked up by iHeartRadio, which now carries it 24/7.
Here in Rochester, it was a big week for WDKX (103.9). The voice of Rochester’s black community marks its 40th anniversary this year, and it’s doing so with a slew of honors: the station was inducted into the Rochester Music Hall of Fame last night, it staged its own anniversary concert on Saturday – and earlier in the week, Rochester’s mayor announced that one of the newly-built streets through the former Midtown Plaza redevelopment will be named for WDKX’s late founder, Andrew Langston.
There’s a certain delicious irony there: the new “Andrew Langston Way” will cut right through the footprint of the buildings where nearly all of Langston’s competitors once had their studios. Over half a century, Midtown was home to stations and clusters that included WBBF/WMJQ (and eventually the LIN/Heritage/Entercom cluster that included those signals) and WVOR, WHAM, and eventually the Lincoln/ARS/Clear Channel cluster that included them. Langston, meanwhile, was competing from a few blocks to the east on a less-fashionable stretch of East Main Street – but his station is still locally-owned by his family, while all those others have long since become part of corporate conglomerates.
LPFM news: Don Radigan has applied for a license to cover for his WQKA-LP (92.9 Pulteney), serving the Keuka Lake area with the same callsign Radigan used when he was working at the old 850 in Penn Yan, now WYLF. Up along the Canadian border near Alexandria Bay, “Betterarts, Inc.” has been granted a CP for 88.5 in Redwood; just down I-81, Calvary Chapel North Country has been granted a CP for 96.9 in Watertown.
*A sad story from the NEW JERSEY shore: the WWZY (107.1 Long Branch) tower was in the news last Monday night when a man broke in, climbed more than 400 feet to the top, and then jumped to his death. The man’s fall broke the roof of a neighboring building.
Radio People on the Move: Therese Romano is moving on from her current job as “program and content manager” for Pillar of Fire’s “Star 99.1” (WAWZ-FM Zarephath). She’s headed south for an as-yet-undisclosed new opportunity, and no replacement has yet been named.
*We salute one of northeast PENNSYLVANIA‘s longest-serving radio veterans on his retirement. Bud Brown signed off WILK (980/103.1) in Wilkes-Barre on Wednesday. Long before he was a talk host at WILK, Brown did news there – and before that, at crosstown WBRE (1340) and WKRZ (98.5), as well as in his native New Jersey even before that. Brown is on his way west to Arizona to enjoy a well-deserved retirement at the end of a radio career that started way back in 1969.
Radio People on the Move: Logan has departed WISX (Mix 106.1) in Philadelphia, where he was morning host, music director and assistant PD. He’d spent 14 years in all with Clear Channel, the last 8 at Mix. At the opposite corner of the state, Paul Walker is saying farewell after four years at WDDH (97.5 St. Mary’s), heading off to a new gig out of the region.
It’s the end of the line for WNCC (950 Barnesboro). The station has been silent for years, and now its license (which was due to expire in August) has officially been cancelled and its callsign deleted.
*A call swap in southern RHODE ISLAND: WWRX (1180 Hope Valley) has changed calls back to WSKP, returning the WWRX calls to its sister station on 107.7 in Ledyard, CONNECTICUT. We’re not sure why the call swap happened in the first place a few months back; neither callsign is a very close match for either station’s format, “Kool” oldies on 1180 and “Jammin” rhythmic top-40 on 107.7.
*Where Are They Now?: Alex Miniak was “Alex James” when he programmed WHEB (100.3 Portsmouth), WGIR-FM (101.1 Manchester) and WMLL (96.5 Bedford) in NEW HAMPSHIRE. He also served as PA announcer for the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, and now he’s taking his PA act to the big leagues: he won the competition to become the new stadium voice for the San Diego Padres out at lovely Petco Park.
There’s word of another quiet format flip at Clear Channel on the Seacoast: WMYF (1380) Portsmouth has segued to classic country from standards after less than a year with that format.
*A MAINE low-power FM now has calls: mark down “WHPW-LP” for the Harpswell Radio Project’s 97.3 in (where else?) Harpswell.
*VERMONT‘s Christian Ministries has added a new signal up near the Canadian border. It closed on its purchase of the former WNGF (89.9 Swanton) from Northeast Gospel Broadcasting, and as of April 16 the station is now WGLG, simulcasting the programming originating from Christian Ministries’ WGLY-FM(91.5 Bolton).
*Vermont Public Radio may lose its reach into its biggest listener base in CANADA, if a Montreal college station has its way. CJLO (1690) is operated by Concordia University, but its AM dial spot and the need to put its transmitter at a distance from the downtown core means that it’s often hard to receive on campus. That’s why Concordia has applied to add a 100-watt “nested repeater” for CJLO, operating on 107.9 from the Henry Hall Building on campus.
If it’s granted, the repeater would give CJLO a much more listenable signal in the core of Montreal, but the small area of service it would provide would come at the price of a larger swath of interference that the new 107.9 would cause to Montreal-area reception of WVPS (107.9 Burlington), VPR’s flagship signal.
Unlike the public TV stations in the Burlington-Plattsburgh market, which depend heavily on Montreal contributors to survive, VPR isn’t dependent on a Canadian audience to thrive. But there’s a loyal listener base across the border for VPR, especially for its NPR news broadcasts, and the CRTC is likely to hear from Canadians who don’t want to lose over-the-air access to VPR programming.
Will they listen? As Steve Faguy notes in his article about the situation, Canadian regulators don’t have to provide protection to WVPS, or any US-based signal. (The reasons aren’t exactly as Faguy describes them; it’s not a question of any sort of protected signal strength or radius, but rather an international treaty that provides no interference protection at all for US signals on Canadian soil, or vice versa. As long as the CJLO relay doesn’t interfere with WVPS on the US side of the border, it can legally operate in Canada.)
While we’re in Montreal, we note the departure of CBC news director Mary-Jo Barr, one of the more visible casualties so far of the corporation’s massive job cuts announced earlier this month. Her position is being replaced by a new managing editor post, which will be filled by Helen Evans.
*Religious broadcaster UCB Canada wants to add another link to its growing chain across Ontario: the Belleville-based network is applying for a new signal on 90.5 in Windsor, where it would run 1.73 kW average/10 kW max DA/55.5m. If the CRTC grants the new addition to the crowded Windsor/Detroit dial, it would join existing UCB outlets in Belleville, Barrie, Chatham-Kent and elsewhere.
There could be a radio war brewing in the “Six Nations” territory southwest of Hamilton, where longstanding native station CKRZ (100.3 Ohsweken) faces a challenge from a potential competitor. Arrow Radio is applying for its own station on 93.5, with 42 watts average/75 watts max DA/80m, saying it would improve on the “poor quality of service” that it claims has driven many younger Six Nations listeners away from CKRZ.
While CKRZ is funded by what appears to be a never-ending on-air bingo game, Arrow says its new 93.5 would not do on-air gaming, funding itself instead through grants, donations and advertising.
The Windsor and Ohsweken applications will be considered at a CRTC hearing June 26 in Gatineau, Quebec, where the commission will also hear a proposed sale of CJLM (103.5 Joliette QC), from the Coopérative de radiodiffusion MF 103.5 de Lanaudière to Attraction Radio for C$750,000.
*In Wingham, CIBU (94.5) shifted from active rock to classic rock on Thursday, rebranding from “the Bull” to “Classic Rock 94.5.” The lineup at the Blackburn-owned station includes Phil Main in mornings, Drew Stefani in middays, J. Stevens in afternoon drive and Kevin Fell in the evening.
*Radio People on the Move: David Cruise has departed CIHT (Hot 89.9) in Ottawa, leaving the night shift there to become morning man at CKZZ (95.3 Vancouver), which just changed hands from Bell to CIHT owner Newcap. Nikki Balch, who’d been doing weekends at CJFM (Virgin Radio 95.9) in Montreal, takes over nights at CIHT.
*And there’s late word as we wrap up the column Sunday night of the death of Lee Marshall, the deep-voiced talent who was a key part of the “20/20 News” team in CKLW (800 Windsor)’s heyday. Marshall spent most of his career out west, working at stations such as KHJ in Los Angeles and KRIZ in Phoenix, not to mention several stints announcing pro wrestling and, more recently, replacing Thurl Ravenscroft as the voice of Tony the Tiger. More on this story next week…
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