In this week’s issue… Clear, Connoisseur, Qantum, JVC make moves – AM auction ends with Rockland win – WMVY’s on-air return comes with big power – CRTC hears Toronto FM pitches, approves Montreal FMs

By SCOTT FYBUSH

CBS3’s Pat Ciarrocchi and 6ABC’s Jim Gardner have been inducted into the Pennsylvania Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame. They join KYW’s Malcolm Poindexter and Larry Kane as the only other broadcast-news anchors in the hall.

Ciarrocchi, who celebrated her 32nd year behind the anchor desk at CBS3, has the distinction of being the first female anchor inducted. The Chester County native, who grew up watching Mort Crim, Vince Leonard and Jessica Savitch, joined the station on March 15, 1982, and credits her longevity to a genuine love of the community and desire to tell its story. She’s come a long way since her radio days, when her first on-air appearance was as a screamer for a Halloween spot.
Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/entertainment/celebrities/20140501_Ciarrocchi__Gardner_get_a_Hall_of_an_honor.html#L4otRWVHVSKxmt7w.99

CBS3’s Pat Ciarrocchi and 6ABC’s Jim Gardner have been inducted into the Pennsylvania Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame. They join KYW’s Malcolm Poindexter and Larry Kane as the only other broadcast-news anchors in the hall.

Ciarrocchi, who celebrated her 32nd year behind the anchor desk at CBS3, has the distinction of being the first female anchor inducted. The Chester County native, who grew up watching Mort Crim, Vince Leonard and Jessica Savitch, joined the station on March 15, 1982, and credits her longevity to a genuine love of the community and desire to tell its story. She’s come a long way since her radio days, when her first on-air appearance was as a screamer for a Halloween spot.
Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/entertainment/celebrities/20140501_Ciarrocchi__Gardner_get_a_Hall_of_an_honor.html#L4otRWVHVSKxmt7w.99

CBS3’s Pat Ciarrocchi and 6ABC’s Jim Gardner have been inducted into the Pennsylvania Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame. They join KYW’s Malcolm Poindexter and Larry Kane as the only other broadcast-news anchors in the hall.

Ciarrocchi, who celebrated her 32nd year behind the anchor desk at CBS3, has the distinction of being the first female anchor inducted. The Chester County native, who grew up watching Mort Crim, Vince Leonard and Jessica Savitch, joined the station on March 15, 1982, and credits her longevity to a genuine love of the community and desire to tell its story. She’s come a long way since her radio days, when her first on-air appearance was as a screamer for a Halloween spot.
Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/entertainment/celebrities/20140501_Ciarrocchi__Gardner_get_a_Hall_of_an_honor.html#L4otRWVHVSKxmt7w.99

CBS3’s Pat Ciarrocchi and 6ABC’s Jim Gardner have been inducted into the Pennsylvania Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame. They join KYW’s Malcolm Poindexter and Larry Kane as the only other broadcast-news anchors in the hall.

Ciarrocchi, who celebrated her 32nd year behind the anchor desk at CBS3, has the distinction of being the first female anchor inducted. The Chester County native, who grew up watching Mort Crim, Vince Leonard and Jessica Savitch, joined the station on March 15, 1982, and credits her longevity to a genuine love of the community and desire to tell its story. She’s come a long way since her radio days, when her first on-air appearance was as a screamer for a Halloween spot.
Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/entertainment/celebrities/20140501_Ciarrocchi__Gardner_get_a_Hall_of_an_honor.html#L4otRWVHVSKxmt7w.99

CBS3’s Pat Ciarrocchi and 6ABC’s Jim Gardner have been inducted into the Pennsylvania Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame. They join KYW’s Malcolm Poindexter and Larry Kane as the only other broadcast-news anchors in the hall.

Ciarrocchi, who celebrated her 32nd year behind the anchor desk at CBS3, has the distinction of being the first female anchor inducted. The Chester County native, who grew up watching Mort Crim, Vince Leonard and Jessica Savitch, joined the station on March 15, 1982, and credits her longevity to a genuine love of the community and desire to tell its story. She’s come a long way since her radio days, when her first on-air appearance was as a screamer for a Halloween spot.
Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/entertainment/celebrities/20140501_Ciarrocchi__Gardner_get_a_Hall_of_an_honor.html#L4otRWVHVSKxmt7w.99

(Another brief note before we launch into the column: Lisa still remains in serious, but improving, condition in a hospital in Indiana, and while I’m able once again to get out an abbreviated column this week, there continues to be a delay in handling subscription inquiries, shipping orders from the Fybush.com Store. Thanks, once again, for your patience as we try to get through our latest ordeal.)

connoisseur-logo-lg*More than seven years after NERW first broke the news that Clear Channel was trying to sell WALK-FM (97.5 Patchogue) and WALK (1370 Patchogue) on Long Island, the stations are finally heading to new owners as part of a complex swap that also shakes up the radio scene out to the northeast on Cape Cod.

It was way back in December 2006 when we posted an exclusive report that WALK/WALK-FM would have to be spun off as part of Clear Channel’s conversion from a publicly-traded to a private company, ending the grandfathering that had allowed Clear to keep WALK alongside its market-capped cluster of five FMs in New York City proper. (WALK-FM’s Suffolk County-based signal didn’t overlap with the New York City FMs under the FCC’s old contour-based methodology, but the switch to using Arbitron markets mean that WALK, as part of the Nassau-Suffolk market embedded within the larger New York City market, now counts against the New York market cap.)

As a result, Clear Channel shifted WALK/WALK-FM to the Aloha Station Trust…and there the stations have remained. While Aloha was intended to be a divestiture trust, merely a temporary waystation before the stations moved on to a competing owner, there didn’t seem to be any urgency on the part of either Clear Channel or the FCC to move things forward. Long Island competitor Connoisseur complained in 2012, when Clear Channel added WOR (710 New York) to its cluster, that the WOR transfer should have been conditioned on the full divestiture of WALK, but the Commission didn’t see a need to impose that condition.

And now Connoisseur will end up owning the WALK stations, thanks to the deal announced Thursday. It plays out like this, at least in its initial phases: Clear Channel will swap WALK/WALK-FM to Frank Osborn’s Qantum Communications in an even exchange for Qantum’s 29 stations in South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Florida and on Cape Cod, where Qantum’s founding purchase back in 2003 was the $32 million purchase of Al Makkay’s three-FM cluster, augmented in 2005 with the $21.3 million purchase of four more FMs from Boch Broadcasting. (More on that cluster in a moment.)

qantumBut Qantum won’t keep the Long Island stations: it will turn right around and sell them (for an as-yet-undisclosed price) to Connoisseur, which will get to combine soft AC WALK(AM) and AC WALK-FM with its existing cluster that includes classic rock “Shark” WWSK (94.3 Huntington), AC WKJY (98.3 Hempstead), classic hits WBZO (103.1 Bay Shore) and standards WHLI (1100 Hempstead). Adding the WALK cluster to the existing Connoisseur group will turn central Long Island into a two-owner market, with the bulk of the revenue going either to the combined Connoisseur/WALK cluster or to Cox’s potent duo, rocker WBAB (102.3 Babylon) and hot AC WBLI (106.1 Patchogue).

For Connoisseur, there will be some choices to be made – will “K-Joy 98.3,” with an AC format similar to WALK-FM’s, be sacrificed in favor of the much bigger class B signal on its new 97.5? Or will Jeff Warshaw’s group leave both stations in place, focusing K-Joy on its Nassau County home base while using WALK-FM to cover the broader Nassau-Suffolk market? (Similarly, what becomes of the significant format overlap between the AM side of WALK and WHLI?)

Connoisseur wasn’t the only Long Island group making big moves last week, and we’ll return to the island later in the column for that news – but first, Thursday’s developments mean we need to spend some time unpacking the new competitive balance out there at the edge of MASSACHUSETTS, on Cape Cod:

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*For a seasonal vacation area with a small and not especially affluent year-round population, the Cape is about as over-radioed as it gets. The cluster of four big-signal FMs (three Bs and B1) Clear Channel is about to inherit from Qantum competes against two aggressive locally-owned groups, John Garabedian’s Codcomm cluster of four FMs (itself built on the excess signals Qantum had to spin in its 2005 Boch acquisition) and Cape Cod Broadcasting’s four-FM group.

The cluster Qantum is selling currently includes news-talk WXTK (95.1 West Yarmouth), sports WEII (96.3 Dennis, relaying Boston’s WEEI), classic hits “Cool” WCIB (101.9 Falmouth) and hot AC (verging on top-40) WCOD (106.1 Hyannis). To many observers, that FM talk/FM sports combination doesn’t feel very Clear Channel (especially since the WEEI network comes from Clear Channel’s Boston rival, Entercom) – and to NERW, the Cape Cod market in general simply doesn’t feel very Clear Channel. For a company that’s sharply pared back its programming investment in small markets, plugging national Premium Choice formats into the Cape signals won’t go very far toward competing with the intensely local programming coming from Codcoom and Cape Cod Broadcasting. Would the Cape want a simulcast of Clear’s Kiss 108 out of Boston? Will Clear want to continue to pay Entercom for WEEI programming and the Red Sox on 96.3?

Or…is it possible that Clear Channel took Cape Cod and the other Qantum clusters to create a tax-free swap that would finally get WALK off its books, but that it has further swaps in mind down the road that will put the Cape stations in the hands of a different owner for whom they make more sense? This is purely speculative for now – but it’s certainly not hard to imagine.

wmvy*Just off the Cape, as Martha’s Vineyard’s WMVY prepares to return to terrestrial radio, it’s hoping to do so with an even bigger signal than it had in its days on 92.7 (now WBUR public radio relay WBUA). Barbara Dacey’s “Friends of MVY” group has kept the station going as a webcast, and they’re buying what’s now WMEX (88.7 Edgartown) from Dennis Jackson’s Vineyard Public Radio – but instead of the current 250 watts/216′ signal from Oak Bluffs or the pending CP for 580 watts/272′ from the old WMVY tower behind the studio on Carrolls Lane in Tisbury, WMEX is now applying for a big 12 kW/272′ DA, with only a minor directional notch reducing the signal toward Rhode Island and the South Coast. Even with the DA notch, the new 88.7 version of WMVY will still have a more potent reach than they did on the old 3 kW/315′ 92.7 signal.

Dacey’s group is expected to close on its purchase of the 88.7 signal within a month or so, and it’s widely expected that the WMVY calls will return to the Vineyard from their temporary parking spot on 104.3 in Hartford, Vermont, in turn setting the legacy Boston WMEX calls free for reuse elsewhere.

*Back at the WEEI mothership, Mike Mutnansky’s move off the midday show started the dominoes falling on some other staffing moves: “Mut” shifts to hosting the Red Sox pre- and post-game shows, displacing John Ryder from WEEI after 16 years with the station, the last half of those as a full-timer. Mutnansky had remained on the midday shift temporarily while WEEI waited for new midday co-host Tim Benz to become available, and the elimination of the Pittsburgh Penguins from the NHL playoffs last week freed Benz to leave his longtime home at WBGG in Pittsburgh to make the move to WEEI.

*It took 28 bids, but NEW YORK‘s newest AM station will belong to the broadcaster who got the channel allocated in the first place. Alexander Broadcasting needed the intervention of two members of the U.S. Congress to get a special auction window opened up for AM 1700 in Rockland County, where it made the case that neither of the county’s existing AM signals, Polnet’s WRKL (910 New City) or its own WRCR (1300 Spring Valley), covered enough of the county to provide emergency information in the event of problems at the nuclear power plant just across the Hudson. (A stretch? Yes…but it worked.)

wrcrThe addition of the Rockland 1700 facility to a pile of long-idled contested AM applications from 2004 provided a bit of excitement to what was otherwise a lackluster Auction 84 proceeding; unlike the rest of the facilities in the auction, where only original 2004 applicants could bid, anyone could join the fray for 1700. Four broadcasters fought for the facility, and in the end it was the two existing AM operators going head-to-head until Alexander’s $409,000 bid beat out Polnet’s $372,000 to end the auction in Round 28.

Because Alexander filed its application as a major change to the existing WRCR license, it appears AM 1300 will go dark once 1700 signs on – unless Alexander does what others have done before and persuades the FCC to “recharacterize” the 1700 CP as a new station instead of a major change.

WRCR’s current plan for 1700 calls for the new signal to be licensed to Ramapo, running 10 kW days, 1 kW nights, non-directional from one of the WRKL towers on Route 202 in northern Rockland County.

*Back to Long Island and another big move by a cluster owner: while Connoisseur beefs up its cluster in the middle of the island, East End powerhouse JVC Media is looking south for its expansion potential. John Carracciolo’s group just inked two deals in the West Palm Beach market, where it’s acquiring AM/FM combo WBGF/WSWN from BGI Broadcasting and WSVU(AM) and two translators from North Palm Beach Broadcasting. JVC entered Florida last year when it acquired a cluster in Gainesville.

wizr-z1029*Two station sales upstate will bring changes to the Johnstown/Gloversville market: WIZR (930 Johnstown) and translator W275BS go from Dr. Thomas Kuettel (“930 AM WIZR Radio LLC”) to Cranesville Block Company, which will pay $150,000 to add “Z102.9” to fill in the gap between its WCSS (1490 Amsterdam) to the east and WKAJ (1120 St. Johnsville) to the west. Kuettel bought the then-silent WIZR license from Pamal for $175,000 in 2010.

Just up the road, WENT (1340 Gloversville) owner Whitney Radio Broadcasting is paying Bud Williamson’s Digital Radio Broadcasting $60,000 for translator W286CD (105.1), which has already been relaying WENT’s full-service format.

In Binghamton, Family Life Ministries and Equinox Broadcasting are swapping two co-located translators. FLN will swap 250-watt W254BH (98.7, relaying WCII 88.5 Spencer) to Equinox in exchange for 57-watt tower-mate W275BC (102.9), which Equinox is using to relay “Drive” WDRE (100.5 Susquehanna PA) – and we assume FLN must see a way to upgrade that 102.9 signal, as it’s done with so many of its translators.

*In the Catskills, community public radio station WJFF (90.5 Jeffersonville) has been hit with a $15,000 fine – not from the FCC, but from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which cracked down on the station over a history of several years of failing to follow CPB’s rules about maintaining and publicizing its Community Advisory Board.

rirhof*The RHODE ISLAND Radio Hall of Fame has inducted its latest class, including longtime PD/air talent Rick Everett, newsman Dave Fallon (now at Rhode Island Public Radio), WOR (710 New York) programmer and longtime WPRO PD Tom Cuddy, Boston jock (and onetime part-owner of Woonsocket’s WNRI) Paul Perry, the late WHIM engineer Pappy Philbrook, easy listening programmer Tony Rizzini and performer Saucy Sylvia. Longtime sales and business manager Janice Skelly (WLKW, WSNE) received the Shepard Award and WPRO-FM (92.3) was be named Broadcaster of the Year at the ceremony in Lincoln.

*PENNSYLVANIA stands to get two new AM stations out of Auction 84, at extremely low prices for the winning bidders. ted Schober was one of two applicants for 850 in Enola, near Harrisburg, way back in 2004, and he won that construction permit (2500 watts day/2000 watts night) in the first round of bidding, for just $5,000. Up the road in Montoursville, near Williamsport, the 1450 channel that used to be in South Williamsport will be reactivated by Austin R. Kennedy. He won that 1000-watt CP in round eight, for $9,400, beating out the Smith and Fitzgerald Partnership.

In Carlisle, troubled WHYL (960) fell silent a few weeks ago after months of mostly-automated operation in the hands of a bankruptcy trustee. NERW hears a sale of the station is imminent – stay tuned!

Radio People on the Move in Philadelphia: at WRDW-FM (96.5),  Beasley promotes weekender Bex to a fulltime slot as a cast member on the “Big Philly” morning show, followed in middays by another ex-weekender, Michael Bennett, who’s also the new music director at Wired. (That opens up the night gig Bennett had been doing on weekdays up at WSPK in Poughkeepsie.)

*Just across the river in Cherry Hill, NEW JERSEY, EMF Broadcasting has flipped WYPA (89.5) from K-Love to the harder-rockin’ Air-1. The move comes six months after EMF moved 89.5’s former calls, WKVP, to the higher-powered signal at 106.9 in Camden that used to be Merlin’s WWIQ (and Family Stations’ WKDN before that), and we’re surprised the simulcast between 106.9 and 89.5 lasted as long as it did.

humsafar*CANADA‘s largest Francophone market is about to get two more signals speaking other languages. The CRTC last week approved Radio Humsafar’s long-standing application for a new AM aimed at South Asian audiences; after originally applying for 1400, Humsafar modified its application to instead request 1610 after Haitian community station CJWI moved from 1610 to 1410. The new Humsafar 1610 signal will run 1000 watts day and night, diplexed on the CJLO (1690) tower. On the even more crowded AM dial, Agni Communications will run 50 watts/44.4m DA on its new CILO (102.9), primarily serving Tamil-speaking audiences.

(On a much larger scale, the CRTC approved the CBC’s request to boost the power on Radio 2 outlet CBM-FM 93.5 from 24.6 kW to 100 kW, part of an overall power boost for most of the Mount Royal FMs made possible when analog TV went away at the site.)

In Toronto, the CRTC opened hearings last Tuesday on six applications for the use of the 102.7 frequency in the suburbs. Three of the applications being heard are for ethnic signals in Scarborough, along with proposed power boosts for CJVF in Scarborough and CIWS in Whitchurch-Stouffville and a proposed relay transmitter for urban CKFG (98.7 Toronto).

Down the road in Mississauga, Elliott Kerr is still trying to get his new CKNT (960) built, and to do so he’s asked the CRTC to allow him to construct a smaller signal than his originally-planned 2 kW days/180 watts night. He’s now proposing 700 watts day, 104 watts at night.

Just in time for cottage season, a new community station is on the air in Huntsville: CKAR (88.7) is run by Hunters Bay Radio, using a callsign that was long in use on the AM dial down in Oshawa. Meanwhile, CFBK (105.5 Moose FM) in Huntsvulle has dropped AC for rock, still using its “Moose” slogan, reports Canadian Radio News.

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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: May 20, 2013

*Seven years after an upstate NEW YORK state college entered the public radio business, it has abruptly shut down its station, leaving behind plenty of questions about a newly open space on the dial. wuowSUNY Oneonta put WUOW-LP (104.7) on the air in 2007 to help provide emergency communications in town in the wake of devastating flooding in the region, and just last year it returned the LPFM license and signed on a new full-power outlet, WUOW (88.5 Milford), along with an Oneonta translator, W217BY (91.3), for which it paid $12,500. Even though that move had already been planned and paid for, it appears that the Oneonta campus had by then already decided to pull the plug on its venture into public radio. From an initial staff of three (plus a part-timer), WUOW was down to just one staffer – and on Thursday, that staffer, SUNY Oneonta communications lecturer Gary Wickham, had the sad duty of signing the station off. With a mixture of AAA music and some local talk, WUOW had competed against relays of two larger public stations, Binghamton”s WSKG (via WSQC 91.7 Oneonta) and Albany”s WAMC (via two translators in the area). Will either of them (or someone else) end up with the WUOW licenses? For now, SUNY isn”t saying whether it still plans to sell the licenses, though it had offered them for sale back in 2011. (In the meantime, WSKG is finding other ways to expand in Otsego County: it”s paying Bud Williamson $20,000 for translator W290CI on 105.9 in Cooperstown.) *We still think of Bruce Mittman primarily as a Massachusetts broadcaster, but he”s becoming a bigger name in upstate New York radio. Last week, Mittman”s Community Broadcasters (which he owns along with Jim Leven) filed a $3.6 million deal to buy Backyard Broadcasting”s stations in the Elmira/Corning and Olean markets. In Elmira, Community picks up a cluster of three FMs and two AMs: top-40 “Wink 106″ WNKI (106.1 Corning), the only class B signal in the core of the market, along with country “Big Pig” WPGI (100.9 Horseheads) and classic rock “Wingz” WNGZ (104.9 Montour Falls), plus talker WWLZ (820 Horseheads) and WRCE (1490 Watkins Glen), which relays WNGZ when it”s not carrying auto racing on the weekends. In Olean, Community picks up market-leading country giant WPIG (95.7) and oldies WHDL (1450).Read more at: http://www.fybush.com/nerw-5132013-oneonta-loses-a-radio-voice/

*It”s been a week of big changes in western NEW YORK broadcasting, and nowhere, perhaps, bigger than in the newsroom at WBEN (930 Buffalo). News director Steve Cichon has become a fixture in the market over his 20-year career, starting out as a producer at WBEN, moving down the hall to WIVB (Channel 4) and then to the program director”s chair at the old WNSA (107.7) before returning to WBEN in 2003.

Cichon (photo: WBEN)
Cichon (photo: WBEN)

As news director at WBEN in recent years, Cichon has been as Buffalo as Buffalo gets – and when he”s not running the newsroom, he”s been busy writing books about the history of the Parkside neighborhood where he lives (“A Complete History of Parkside“) and about Buffalo”s legendary Channel 7 news team (“Irv! Buffalo”s Anchorman: The Irv, Tom and Rick Story“) – and blogging constantly about Buffalo history at StaffAnnouncer.com and on Facebook.

Which is why it was rather a shock early last week to see Steve”s announcement – yes, right there on Facebook – that he”s moving on from WBEN, and from broadcasting, at least for now. Cichon will leave WBEN on May 31, and in June he”ll launch a new company called “Buffalo Stories, LLC,” where he says he”ll be “working with small businesses and non-profits to tell their story.”

No replacement has been named yet at WBEN – and in the meantime, we send our very best wishes westward down the Thruway to Steve on his new venture!

There”s a format change in Buffalo: Wednesday morning brought a flip from soft AC to standards at Dick Greene”s WECK (1230 Cheektowaga) and its FM translator at 102.9 in downtown Buffalo. The former “Buffalo”s Breeze” is now “Timeless WECK,” with Tom Donohue still in morning drive and Dial Global”s standards format filling the rest of the day. While the “Breeze” format went up against much bigger AC players including Townsquare”s WJYE (96.1) and Cumulus” WHTT (104.1), the new “Timeless WECK” has its format pretty much to itself after the demise last year of Cumulus” “Swing 1270” (WHLD, now carrying CBS Sports Radio.)

*A Long Island broadcast group is making a big expansion in north central Florida. JVC Broadcasting, owned by John Caracciolo and Vic “Latino” Canales, is acquiring the Asterisk Communications clusters in the Ocala-Gainesville market. In Ocala, JVC gets AC WMFQ (92.9) and country WTRS (102.3), stations we just recently profiled on Tower Site of the Week, while in Gainesville, JVC”s new signals are smooth jazz WXJZ (100.9), talk WBXY (99.5) and country WYGC (104.9). JVC is paying $3.5 million for the five Florida stations.

*It looks like Plum TV has hit the pits. Last week, we noted that the Boston-market affiliate of the upper-demo TV network, WMFP (Channel 62), appeared to be on the verge of switching affiliations to NBC”s CoziTV rerun network – and not only did that change come to pass early Monday morning for viewers in eastern MASSACHUSETTS, but Plum also disappeared for the denizens of Martha”s Vineyard and Long Island”s Hamptons, where local Plum outlets quietly went dark on cable within the last few weeks.

The network, which also included outlets at several ski resorts out west, had already gone through a brush with bankruptcy in recent years, only to be rescued by a new round of investors who”d been trying to improve Plum”s visibility in larger markets like Boston. Now it appears to be gone for good – and it”s certainly gone from Boston, where Cozi is now airing on WMFP”s 62.1 channel over the air and on Comcast cable 20.

*It”s been a rough few years for small AM stations in western PENNSYLVANIA.

From Connellsville to Oil City to Carnegie to Somerset, we”ve watched as shifts in the economy have impelled station owners to surrender their licenses rather than continue losing money trying to keep them afloat. The latest entry on that unhappy list appears to be WKZV (1110 Washington), the 1000-watt directional signal that signed on as WKEG back in 1970. Most recently programming classic country, WKZV had been operating only sporadically in the past year following the death of co-owner Stanley Supinski, and there”s now word that his widow, Helen Supinski, has signed off the station for the last time and sold the land on which its two-tower directional array sits, with the towers soon to be demolished.

*Conventional wisdom says we”re living right now in a time of transformative media change, as established news sources come under siege from newer, more nimble ventures. wbin-smIn the world of local TV news, though, “new” doesn”t automatically mean “success” – especially in markets where a single player might have a six-decade head start on a newcomer. Markets such as, say, NEW HAMPSHIRE, which is where we start this week”s column with the news that Bill Binnie”s WBIN (Channel 50) has pulled the plug, for now, on the 10 PM local newscast that launched back in the fall of 2011.Read more at: http://www.fybush.com/nerw-20130506/

*Conventional wisdom says we”re living right now in a time of transformative media change, as established news sources come under siege from newer, more nimble ventures. wbin-smIn the world of local TV news, though, “new” doesn”t automatically mean “success” – especially in markets where a single player might have a six-decade head start on a newcomer. Markets such as, say, NEW HAMPSHIRE, which is where we start this week”s column with the news that Bill Binnie”s WBIN (Channel 50) has pulled the plug, for now, on the 10 PM local newscast that launched back in the fall of 2011. In its year and a half on the air, that newscast suffered from two big drawbacks: first, it was never truly “local,” emanating from the centralized newsroom at INN (Independent News Network) in Davenport, Iowa, where an Iowa-based anchor introduced stories from three reporters based in New Hampshire; second, it attempted to compete not only against the very established Manchester-based WMUR (Channel 9), which offers its own 10 PM show on its 9.2 MeTV subchannel, but also against the big newsrooms to the south in Boston. (And even here, the advantage went very much to WMUR, which can draw on the considerable resources of Hearst sister station WCVB in Boston.) The Binnie group promised early on that the Iowa-based production would be only temporary while it worked to build a full-fledged news operation in New Hampshire, and as recently as February Binnie told the Concord Monitor that he was planning to “double his reporting staff” and expand the evening newscast to an hour. But we”re hearing that concerns with the quality of the Iowa-based production led WBIN to pull out of the deal with INN, abruptly replacing the 10 PM newscast with the syndicated “OMG! Insider.” WBIN WBIN”s inaugural newscast, 2011 Will news come back to WBIN? The station has retained one of the three local reporters on its staff, and weatherman Al Kaprielian is still on staff as well, doing hourly weather updates from afternoon into prime time (the former INN-produced newscast used an Iowa-based forecaster instead) – but the most that Binnie VP Periklis Karoutas would tell the Monitor is that Binnie “is doing news and will continue to do so.” As for some of the bigger plans Binnie”s been talking about for his fast-growing radio/TV group, including a statewide live morning news show, their failure to materialize just yet might well be taken as another sign that even for an owner with the considerable resources of a business magnate like Bill Binnie, getting into broadcasting in a big way is still harder than it looks.Read more at: http://www.fybush.com/nerw-20130506/

*Conventional wisdom says we”re living right now in a time of transformative media change, as established news sources come under siege from newer, more nimble ventures. wbin-smIn the world of local TV news, though, “new” doesn”t automatically mean “success” – especially in markets where a single player might have a six-decade head start on a newcomer. Markets such as, say, NEW HAMPSHIRE, which is where we start this week”s column with the news that Bill Binnie”s WBIN (Channel 50) has pulled the plug, for now, on the 10 PM local newscast that launched back in the fall of 2011.Read more at: http://www.fybush.com/nerw-20130506/

Five Years Ago: May 18, 2009

A western PENNSYLVANIA radio institution is succumbing to the economy. For nearly half a century, the call letters “WAMO” – which officially stand for the Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio rivers that meet in Pittsburgh – have been synonymous with programming for the region’s black community, and it was that community that was stunned Friday by the news that Sheridan Broadcasting, which has owned the WAMO stations for more than 35 years, had reached a deal to sell them to an organization called Saint Joseph Missions, bringing an end to the urban-oriented formats on the stations.

What Saint Joseph gets for its money is a relative bargain: for $8.9 million, it gets the current incarnation of WAMO-FM, a class B facility on 106.7 licensed to Beaver Falls and serving the northern half of the Pittsburgh market with R&B from a transmitter site in Wexford, as well as two AMs – urban talk/R&B oldies WAMO (860 Millvale), with 1000 watts by day, 830 watts at night and a solid signal over the core of the market, and gospel WPGR (1510 Monroeville), a 5 kW daytimer serving primarily the eastern side of the market.

So who is Saint Joseph Missions? According to the statement the nonprofit filed in a 2007 application (still pending) for a new noncommercial signal on 91.7 in Ligonier, it’s “organized exclusively for religious, educational, and charitable purposes,” in particular those of the Catholic Church. There’s little question, then, about what format Pittsburgh listeners will be hearing on 106.7, 860 and 1510 once the sale closes – and no small bit of irony there, since another Catholic broadcaster, Relevant Radio, apparently couldn’t make a go out of its lease of a much smaller local signal, WZUM (1590 Carnegie), which has been cycling through several temporary formats in the last few days.

NEW YORK’s Pacifica outlet, WBAI (99.5), is no stranger to management turmoil, and that seemingly endless loop is making another cycle this spring. Pacifica national management removed GM Anthony Riddle from his post earlier this month, and station veteran Bernard White says the 10-day suspension he’s serving amounts to an ouster from the PD chair he was occupying. Lavarn Williams is serving as acting general manager as the national Pacifica board tries to get the station back on sound financial footing.

There’s a callsign change in the Catskills: WXHD (90.1 Mount Hope), the relay of New Jersey’s freeform WFMU (91.1 East Orange), has changed its calls to WMFU, an anagram of the mothership’s callsign. Yes, the station is well aware of the potential fun that those with filthy minds (In radio? Never!) might have with the new callsign – and it’s already fielding potential guesses as to what the WMFU calls really ought to stand for. (Our favorite among the early entries: “We Must Forget Upsala,” a reference to the now-defunct college that was WFMU’s original licensee.)

Over in Utica, we’ll know this morning how serious Roser Communications is about the “format change” it’s been heavily promoting at its pair of “Kiss FM” top-40 stations, WSKS (97.9 Whitesboro)/WSKU (105.5 Little Falls). The stations garnered lots of publicity late last week when they announced that “financial constraints” were forcing them to flip to a new format at 7:30 Monday morning – but since Kiss is also promising that its airstaff won’t be affected, and since there’s no mention of the “changes” on its website, it certainly has that “stunt” scent to us. Stay tuned; we’ll be listening Monday morning to see what, if anything, happens.

MONDAY MORNING UPDATE: After a series of tearful “goodbyes” from the airstaff, the stations “relaunched” at 7:30 with the soft AC format from sister station WUTQ (1550) as “Beautiful Music 97.9 & 105.5,” and nearly 20 minutes later, it’s still smelling stunt-y, what with the jock complaining on-air about the “new format” and all… (And sure enough, just before 10 AM, “Kiss FM” returned to its old format, with new morning man Eric Thomas having used the “Beautiful Music,” followed by “Whatever FM,” as his way of introducing himself to the market.)

A former CONNECTICUT callsign is back on the air in the Hartford market. Now that John Fuller’s Red Wolf Broadcasting has taken control of WURH (104.1 Waterbury), the station is returning to the WMRQ, “Radio 104” identity it used from 1995-2003.

Ten Years Ago: May 17, 2004

Nick Berg’s name and his tragic story have been all over the national headlines this week – but for many radio folks in PENNSYLVANIA, NEW YORK and NEW JERSEY, the tower worker who was beheaded in Iraq is more than just a name in the papers. Before Berg headed over to Iraq earlier this year, he was up in the air (and down on the ground) at tower sites all over the region, operating as “Prometheus Tower Service” at sites that included Ingraham Hill in Binghamton (where he installed the new WHWK 98.1 antenna, apparently his last job in the U.S.), WNGZ in Montour Falls, N.Y., the New Jersey Meadowlands and WPLY in Philadelphia.

We’re keeping tabs on an industry effort to create a scholarship in Nick Berg’s memory, and we hope to have details to provide by next week’s issue.

There’s a new FM station on the air in NEW JERSEY: WJPG (88.1 Cape May Court House) signed on a few days ago, simulcasting the contemporary Christian music of WJPH (89.9 Woodbine).

Some talent on the move in upstate NEW YORK this week: at Clear Channel’s WYYY (94.5 Syracuse), the husband-and-wife morning team of Pete Michaels and Brenda Bisset are out after three years, replaced by Rick Gary (of sister station WIXT-TV) and Kathy Rowe, who moves to mornings from middays. Replacing Rowe is Marne Mason, formerly of Galaxy’s WTKW (99.5 Bridgeport)/WTKV (105.5 Oswego); she’ll also be Y94’s assistant program director. And replacing Mason alongside Glenn “Gomez” Addams in mornings on TK99 will be Galaxy programming honcho Mimi Griswold.

Big news from eastern MASSACHUSETTS, and you read it first here in NorthEast Radio Watch: this fall’s schedule at WBZ-TV (Channel 4) in Boston won’t include news at 5 PM weekdays. Instead, NERW has learned that “CBS4” plans to move Dr. Phil from 3 PM to 5 PM (it can’t air at 4 PM, against Oprah on WCVB Channel 5), where it will replace the hour of news that’s been airing there for years. WBZ will then launch a 4 PM newscast to challenge WHDH-TV (Channel 7), which now has the local news audience to itself that early in the afternoon.

Out in western Massachusetts, Vox closed on its $2.025 million purchase of the three Berkshire Broadcasting stations last week, adding WNAW (1230 North Adams), WMNB (100.1 North Adams) and WSBS (860 Great Barrington) to a cluster that already includes WUHN (1110 Pittsfield), WBEC (1420 Pittsfield), WUPE (95.9 Pittsfield) and WBEC-FM (105.5 Pittsfield), though the latter has a pending application to move out of the market to Easthampton.

Fifteen Years Ago: May 14, 1999

Our top story this week comes from CANADA, where the CBC has departed the AM dial in Montreal after 77 years. On Thursday, listeners to CBM (940) heard programming interrupted every ten minutes by a recorded announcement to switch to FM beginning at midnight. When the hour arrived, CBC Radio One programming was interrupted mid-promo for a repeating loop directing listeners to “88.5 on the FM dial” — CBME, the 4000-watt replacement for CBM’s booming 50-kilowatt class-A signal. The loop then ran for 24 hours, ending with no fanfare at midnight Friday. The CBC seems to already realize that the 88.5 signal is inadequate to reach the old CBM audience; they asked the CRTC this week for permission to boost power to 16900 watts (presumably directional to protect adjacent-channel WXLU 88.3 in Peru NY and WWPV 88.7 in Colchester VT), and they’re reportedly being deluged with calls from listeners who can’t hear the FM replacements.

For the next few months, DXers might get some interesting catches on 940, but Montreal won’t be gone long. Expect the CRTC to decide within a few months among the several applicants for 940 and 690, abandoned earlier this year by CBF.

We’ll edge back onto our home turf way up in northern MAINE, where Andy Soule has moved on to a new job as morning jock, PD, promotions, operations, and sales at WDME (103.1) in Dover-Foxcroft. Soule was doing sales for the last few months at the Presque Isle combo of WQHR (96.1)/WBPW (96.9)/WOZI (101.9), after several years as PD/operations manager for the group. Also departing WBPW is longtime morning guy J.R. Mitchell, who’s now a beer distributor. OM/PD Rick Davis slides across the hall from WQHR to take over mornings at WBPW, while Jason McKay comes aboard to do mornings on Q96.1.

We’re saddened to report the passing of a VERMONT radio institution. Bob Kimel came to the Green Mountain State in 1959 when he purchased WWSR (1420), making good on a promise to own his own station by age 35. Kimel had been sales manager at WHAV AM-FM in Haverhill, Mass. In later years, he added WSNO/WORK in Barre, WLFE St. Albans, and (for a while) WEHW Windsor Locks, Connecticut to his station group. Kimel also went to work for a station brokerage group, then started his own firm, New England Media, which he ran until his retirement in 1990. Kimel suffered a stroke on Thursday, May 6. He was 74. He’s survived by his wife, Bea, and sons John and David.

And with that, it’s on to NEW YORK, beginning down in the Big Apple, where banned-in-Boston Opie & Anthony were handing out CDs on the sidewalk in front of WNEW (102.7). The duo claimed they were getting rid of the station’s music collection to prepare for the rumored switch to all-talk.

Plenty of changes this week in Albany, beginning at WKLI (100.9)/WKBE (100.3 Warrensburg), which has started using the “Point” nickname that briefly surfaced across town at 104.9 earlier this spring. We hear a new jock lineup will be unveiled soon to go along with the modern AC format.

In the Mohawk Valley, WODZ (1450 Rome) has dropped its simulcast with oldies FM WODZ-FM (96.1) to take on religion from new owner Bible Broadcasting and new calls WYFY. At rhythmic CHR WOWZ (97.9 Whitesboro)/WOWB (105.5 Little Falls), John Carucci takes over as PD from the departed J.P. Marks. Carucci was promotion manager at WSEN (92.1 Baldwinsville) in the Syracuse market.