In this week’s issue… Remembering Dave Herman, for good or bad – FM move in Connecticut – NYC morning show cancelled – Emily Rooney scales back – Challenge halts NY station sale – Tower down in Mass.?

By SCOTT FYBUSH

(Another brief note before we launch into the column: Lisa is back in Rochester, but she still remains hospitalized, a month and counting. Current orders from the Fybush.com Store as of May 31 ship today, but future orders may remain delayed for some time to come. Thanks, once again, for your patience as we try to get through our latest ordeal.)

*If Dave Herman had died a year ago, our obituary here on NERW would have been unequivocal: we’d have mourned the loss of a NEW YORK radio legend, one of the pioneering voices of freeform FM radio. If Dave Herman had died a year or two from now, we’d have been able to say unequivocally either that he’d been convicted of soliciting a young girl, or that he’d been acquitted of those federal charges.

WNEW-herman
Herman (spotlighted) on a 1985 WNEW calendar

But Herman’s death on Wednesday, in a New Jersey hospital where he was taken from the jail where he was awaiting a July trial date, leaves his legacy in a sort of eternal limbo. The 78-year-old DJ had been aggressively fighting the charges, claiming (through his lawyers) that he’d been set up by an undercover agent posing as a 36-year-old mother. After flirting online with the fictional mother for more than a year, Herman was arrested at a Virgin Islands airport last October, with federal agents saying he’d been attempting to get the “mother” to bring her fictional seven-year-old daughter to St. Croix.

Ugly stuff, of course, and even the most passionate fans of Herman’s long radio career couldn’t help but have their memories of his FM days tarnished by the tabloid headlines. Herman’s lawyers say the stress of fighting those charges contributed to the aneurysm that took his life.

So we’re left with that dark cloud of unanswered questions floating over what had been one of the brightest careers in FM rock radio. Herman’s progressive FM career started at Metromedia’s WMMR (93.3 Philadelphia), where he created the “Marconi Experiment” freeform radio in the late 1960s. He soon moved to New York, initially for a short stint at WABC-FM (95.5) before settling in at Metromedia’s WNEW-FM (102.7) by 1972, becoming a morning institution for almost two decades. As WNEW began its long, slow fade, Herman departed for WXRK (92.3) in 1991, returning to WNEW for another brief stint from 1997-1999. After WNEW’s final break from rock and roll, Herman programmed eYada.com, an early experiment with online talk radio that was many years before its time. In retirement, he’d been splitting his time between a home in Airmont, Rockland County and the Virgin Islands, where he was arrested last October.

*Upstate in the Southern Tier, Robert Pfuntner’s Pembrook Pines stations in Elmira, Olean and Salamanca are once again on the market after the collapse of another attempt to sell the signals out of bankruptcy. In April, we reported on the back-and-forth between Bill Christian’s Great Radio LLC, which was set to buy the stations for $950,000, and competing cluster Community Broadcasters, which filed a petition against the sale with the help of Randy Reid, the former WETM (Channel 18) manager whose Titan Radio was at one point LMA’ing the Pembrook Pines stations before its own deal to buy them fell through.

Last week, Christian withdrew his plan to buy the Pembrook Pines stations with the cooperation of bankruptcy trustee Richard Foreman, who tells the FCC that it appeared likely that the opposition from Titan and Community would have delayed the sale substantially. Over the last few weeks, Titan and Community had been building their case that a sale of Pfuntner’s two AMs and two FMs in Elmira would have created impermissible cross-ownership with the other cluster in town, the Sound Communications cluster of two AMs and four FMs. While Bill Christian maintained that the Sound stations, under the management of his wife Paige, were run completely independently of his own WYDC(TV), Titan and Community submitted evidence that Paige Christian’s Sound stations were in fact run in close coordination with Bill Christian’s Vision stations. That included sworn affidavits from several former Sound and Vision salespeople, who say Bill Christian was quietly running the Sound stations from an office on Market Street in Corning halfway between the WYDC and Sound studios.

So what happens now with the Pembrook Pines stations? They’re back on the market, and Foreman tells the bankruptcy court that he’s once again seeking bids (at a court-ordered price equal to or greater than the $950,000 Christian was ready to pay) for the cluster. In Elmira, that’s sports WELM (1410), standards WEHH (1600 Elmira Heights-Horseheads), top-40 “94 Rock” WLVY (94.3) and country WOKN (99.5 Southport), plus AC WMXO (101.5 Olean), rock WQRS (98.3 Salamanca) and WEHH simulcasters WGGO (1590 Salamanca) and WOEN (1360 Olean). At least for now, Christian’s Great Radio will continue to operate the Pembrook Pines stations under an LMA, but a court order allows Foreman to terminate that LMA and enter into a new one if he deems it necessary.

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*When Clear Channel bought WOR (710) from Buckley, it was pretty much a foregone conclusion that the talent who’d made the station a solidly middle-of-the-road talk signal for Rick Buckley would be ousted in favor of a more politicized, high-energy brand of talk aimed at a younger audience. As of this past weekend, the last piece of the Buckley talk legacy is gone from 710 with the end of Joan Hamburg’s long run at WOR.

Hamburg was a midday staple on the old WOR, offering up a politics-free advice show, and while that sort of talk had no place on the weekday lineup with Clear Channel, she survived for the last year and a half in a weekend 10 AM-noon slot. Now that’s gone, and the 35-year WOR veteran follows names like John Gambling out the door, replaced by an extra two hours of a paid financial advice show.

Will Hamburg, who’s now 79, join the migration of ex-WOR personalities to Salem’s WNYM (970 Hackensack), run by former WOR/Buckley management out of the old WOR studios downtown? Stay tuned…

*We can put a price tag on Clear Channel’s sale of WALK (1370 Patchogue) and WALK-FM (97.5 Patchogue) out of its Aloha Station Trust: it’s valuing the pair at $50 million as it swaps them for Qantum’s 29 stations in smaller markets and then as Qantum sells the WALK stations to Connoisseur.

*It’s been just over a year since Cumulus stirred up some speculation by reportedly striking a deal to take over translator W232AL (94.3 Pomona) from religious broadcaster Bridgelight LLC, and after a flurry of “what-ifs” surrounding the possibility of 94.3 moving to Westchester as a higher-powered signal, things quieted down last summer. Now there’s action again: while no sale of the translator has been filed yet, leaving it still carrying Bridgelight’s programming, W232AL has completed a power increase. It’s still across the Hudson River in Rockland County, but jumping from 3.2 to 150 watts gives the signal much-improved coverage of Rockland and parts of Westchester and northern New Jersey. And there’s more, too: Bridgelight’s programming has now appeared on an HD Radio subchannel of Cumulus’ WNSH (94.7 Newark NJ). That provides a bigger footprint for Bridgelight to feed translators that are beyond the reach of its current primary signal, WRDR (89.7 Freehold NJ) – will that HD simulcast end up being what Bridgelight gets in exchange for the 94.3 translator? Stay tuned…

wlny-newlogoThere’s one fewer morning newscast on the New York City TV dial, not that most viewers will notice. WLNY (Channel 55), the CBS-owned duopoly partner to WCBS-TV (Channel 2), has put “The Couch” out on the curb after just under two years in the 7-9 AM weekday slot. Co-hosts John Elliott and Jill Nicolini will stay with WCBS-TV in other roles, but Carolina Bermudez, who jumped to WLNY from Elvis Duran’s Z100 morning show in 2012, departs. WLNY still does a 10 PM newscast produced by WCBS-TV.

*Veteran Buffalo engineer (and all-around good guy) Tom Atkins has a new corporate job, just a few months after his former employer Backyard Broadcasting sold off the last of its stations and left the field. Atkins, whose career included radio gigs at WUSJ, WGR, WKBW/WWKB, WGR and TV work at WKBW-TV, had been Backyard’s senior corporate VP and director of engineering, and as of next week he’ll be the corporate director of engineering for Saga Communications, based in the suburbs of Detroit. He’s the second upstate engineer to take that gig: his predecessor, Brian Kerkan, had moved up the ladder from Saga’s Ithaca cluster and is now with Crawford Broadcasting in Detroit.

When silent WNAK-FM (105.9 Indian Lake) filed to change calls to WXLE earlier this spring, we wondered whether those “XL” calls meant the station was about to go to the North Country Public Radio network that blankets the Adirondacks – and sure enough, the station returned to the air May 7 and is now listed on the NCPR website. At least for now, that appears to be an LMA from owners Ben Smith and Kevin Fitzgerald.

Wachs and Dodenhoff
Wachs and Dodenhoff

*Radio was just one small part of Bob Dodenhoff’s entrepreneurial adventure, but he and partner Dan Wachs made a big splash in the industry when they bought in, back in the 1980s. Dodenhoff and Wachs had worked at WCMF in Rochester and had purchased WOMP in Bellaire, Ohio before buying Rochester’s slightly-before-its-time country FM (WZKC 98.9, “KC99”) for $3.7 million in 1985, flipping it to classic hits as WKLX.

Under Dodenhoff and Wachs, WKLX was one of the last great standalone stations in the market, with an aggressive publicity effort, especially after flipping again to oldies in 1987. Dodenhoff and Wachs sold WKLX to Heritage Media for $4.5 million in 1993, creating the early seed of what became today’s Entercom cluster alongside WBEE and then-WBBF(AM), and Dodenhoff went on to live in South Carolina, where he’d been running an Internet seafood company and a drug-testing company. Dodenhoff was diagnosed two years ago with a rare form of cancer, and he died last Monday (May 26), at age 57.

*Back downstate, Ken Stein was a morning institution for decades on WPUT (1510 Brewster), back in the days when it was an independently-owned small-town voice for rural Putnam County. The Emerson College graduate, whose real name was Kenneth Steinberg, had also worked in New Hampshire early in his career. He died May 19, at age 76.

There’s late word as well of the death of longtime WNEW music director Tom Tracy, at age 85; we’ll have more on his life and legacy in next week’s NERW.

*What does Connoisseur Media have in mind for one of its southern CONNECTICUT FM signals? WFOX (95.9 Norwalk) has applied to change city of license to Southport, just a few miles eastward along the shore of Long Island Sound. There’s no change being proposed to WFOX’s physical facilities, and the crowded allocations picture in the region means little movement of the signal itself is possible.

That’s prompting speculation that Connoisseur is trying to realign the Nielsen Audio markets in the area: a move from Norwalk to Southport would take WFOX out of the “Stamford-Norwalk” market (in which WFOX was the last remaining local commercial station after the selloff of the rest of its former Cox Radio siblings) and into the adjacent “Bridgeport” market, where it would join sister WEZN (99.9) and Cumulus’ WICC/WEBE.

There’s a new afternoon host on Clear Channel’s “ESPN 97.9” in Hartford (WUCS Windsor Locks), where Rob Dibble joins Paul Nanos in the 3-7 PM slot that Nanos had been hosting solo. Nanos also does mornings on sister Fox Sports outlet WPOP (1410); Dibble, of course, is not only a retired pitcher, mostly with the Reds, but a second-generation broadcaster, son of the late WTIC newsman Walt Dibble.

Our friends at SBE Chapter 14 pass along the sad news of the death of John Reno, a veteran Hartford-market engineer who was part of the team that built WTIC-TV (Channel 3) back in 1957. Reno eventually became chief engineer at channel 3, now WFSB, and in later years did telecom engineering for WTIC’s former owner, Travelers Insurance. Reno died Wednesday (May 28), at age 80.

*An AM/FM tower site is soon to be on the move in New Bedford, MASSACHUSETTS, where state officials hope to reclaim much of the land now used by Hall Communications’ WNBH (1340) and WCTK (98.1) for a new port facility. The tall cranes that will be used at the port can’t easily coexist with the WNBH AM signal, and the Standard-Times reports (in a story typical for its lack of actual understanding of engineering issues) that the state and Hall have agreed to relocate WNBH to a shorter tower on city-owned land near St. Mary’s Cemetery. That plan will be formally unveiled at a public hearing on Tuesday. As for WCTK, it will remain at the current site off MacArthur Boulevard, but the plan is to relocate from its existing 580-foot tower to a new replacement at the southwest corner of the four-acre site now owned by Hall, clearing the rest of the land for the port’s South Terminal. WNBH and WCTK have been at the current site since the mid-1970s, when they relocated from the longtime AM site on Crow Island, in New Bedford Harbor to the east of the current location.

*There’s a new format coming to the radio in northern Worcester County, and Steve Silberberg’s WFNX (99.9 Athol) and WWBZ (700 Orange-Athol) are putting on a show of asking listeners to help decide what it will be. After several years as a low-profile simulcast of “The River,” Silberberg’s AAA-formatted WXRV (92.5 Andover), the northern Worcester County signals broke off a couple of weeks ago, running a loop of songs and asking listeners to go to Vote999.com to decide whether they’ll be part of the new format, set to debut June 9.

In Springfield, Above the Rim Inc.’s new LPFM station on 98.7 has calls: WBSK-LP. (Given the name of the licensee and Springfield’s claim to fame as the birthplace of basketball, could that be “the Basket?”)

*It’s been a long time since anyone’s felt the need to identify Emily Rooney as “Andy’s daughter.” After getting her start in Boston TV at WCVB (Channel 5) in 1979, Rooney went on to a stellar career of her own, holding top executive positions at WCVB and at ABC’s “World News Tonight” before jumping to the world of public broadcasting by joining WGBH in 1997.

Under Rooney, WGBH restarted the daily public affairs TV show (now known as “Greater Boston”) that had fallen by the wayside earlier in the decade; more recently, she’s been an important part of the relaunch of WGBH-FM (89.7) as a news-talk outlet and of WGBH’s expansion into online news.

Now she’s stepping back from daily duties at WGBH. In January, Rooney will hand off hosting duties on the Monday-Thursday editions of “Greater Boston” to an as-yet-undetermined replacement, becoming a special correspondent and retaining the host chair on the Friday “Beat the Press” edition of the show.

On the AM dial in Boston, this week is supposed to be the debut of the new libertarian talk format on WUFC (1510). It’s not yet clear whether some elements of the current Yahoo! Sports Radio programming on 1510 will survive – and we’re still waiting for clarification of the reports we heard that the announcement of the new leased-time format may have been made before the ink was actually dry on a contract. Stay tuned…

*Way up in northern VERMONT, Barry Lunderville’s White Mountain Broadcasting won the latest incarnation of 94.1 in Canaan at auction last year, and now he’s hoping to build it out a little more economically. Instead of the C3 facility specified in the auction, he’s applying to downgrade to just 100 watts at 479 feet below average terrain.

wjas*Tony Renda and his family appear to be slowly edging out of the radio business in western PENNSYLVANIA. Last year, Renda Broadcasting donated third-tier AM WMNY (1360 McKeesport) to a local religious broadcaster, and now Renda is selling its last remaining Pittsburgh AM.

Save for one year before being recombined in the 1980s, WJAS (1320) has been paired with Renda’s WSHH (99.7) ever since 1948, when the FM signed on as WJAS-FM. They’ve remained together over the years through a brief stint of NBC network ownership (as WAMP and WFMP), and for many years under Renda the AM station has carried a standards format that complements WSHH’s AC “Wish 99.7” format.

Now the WJAS license (but not the transmitter property, which stays with Renda) is going to another small western Pennsylvania broadcaster, Frank Iorio, doing business here as “Pittsburgh Radio Partners.” He’s paying $1 million to add the Pittsburgh AM signal to the cluster he owns up in Warren (WRRN 92.3, WKNB 104.3 Clarendon, WNAE 1310 and a CP for a new signal on 105.1 in Sheffield), and he leases an FM in Gallitzin, near Altoona, to EMF’s K-Love network. Iorio just sold the pair of smaller AMs he owns on the western edge of the market, WBVP (1230 Beaver Falls)/WMBA (1460 Ambridge), to Sound Ideas Media for $750,000. That sale included a 25-mile noncompete, but with a loophole that excluded Pittsburgh-licensed signals.

With just one big FM signal now left in Pittsburgh (along with Florida clusters in Jacksonville and Fort Myers and its heritage cluster in Punxsutawney), speculation is increasing about what’s next for the Renda family. Will it keep WSHH as a standalone, a tough position in today’s cluster economy, or might the big class B signal on 99.7 be an attractive target for one of the other clusters in town? Clear Channel is maxed out already with five FMs, but CBS and Steel City Media both have room under the cap to add an extra signal to their lineups. As for WJAS – will Iorio be able to keep the lineup of big names from earlier days in Pittsburgh radio, including Jack Bogut and Bill Cardille? We’ll be watching.

*Back up along the US 6 corridor, the small town of Kane is once again able to be heard on the radio. Kane lost its local radio voice last year when Colonial Media + Entertainment relocated WBYB (103.9) from Kane to Eldred, closer to its home base in the Olean market across the New York state line. But a community group already had an application underway for a low-power FM, and WXZY-LP (101.7 Kane) has now applied for a license to cover for its new signal, broadcasting from the former WBYB tower downtown.

*In Harrisburg, we’re watching the fate of WHTM (Channel 27) and WHP-TV (Channel 21) rather closely, in the wake of Sinclair’s latest attempt to push the FCC into approval of its planned purchase of Allbritton’s TV group. Sinclair’s interest in Allbritton is focused on the one huge station in the cluster, Washington’s ABC affiliate WJLA (Channel 7) and its “NewsChannel 8” cable channel, and it’s trying desperately to win approval for the deal (valued at just under a billion dollars) by shedding as much as it can in markets where Sinclair’s existing holdings overlap with Allbritton.

Last week, Sinclair told the FCC that it can’t find buyers for two of the conflicting stations, and so it plans to return the licenses of Allbritton’s ABC affiliates in Charleston, S.C. (WCIV-TV 4) and Birmingham (WCFT 33 Tuscaloosa/WJSU 40 Anniston) while moving the stations’ intellectual property, including news operations and the ABC affiliations, to its existing MyNetwork TV stations in those markets, WMMP (Channel 36) and WABM (Channel 68), respectively.

That’s a very calculated political move, no doubt aimed at provoking an outcry about the “closure” of venerable major-network affiliates and about the fiction that the shell companies into which Sinclair planned to put the WCIV and WCFT/WJSU licenses are somehow “controlled” by minority owners in anything other than a superficial manner. (And it’s working, too: Sinclair’s allies at the FCC are already complaining that by taking a tougher stand against TV JSAs, the Democratic majority on the commission is somehow thwarting the “minority” ownership that would somehow magically appear if Sinclair were allowed to follow through on its plans.)

This all matters in Harrisburg, of course, because Sinclair is already on plan B in its attempt to unload WHP-TV (and WHP’s own LMA of Nexstar’s CW affiliate, WLYH-TV 15) after the FCC rejected its original proposed buyer as being too closely tied to Sinclair itself.

If Sinclair were to submit a plan to return the WHTM license as it’s doing in Charleston and Birmingham, it would come with bigger consequences: in Charleston and Birmingham, there’s no local news department at Sinclair’s existing stations to compete with the WCIV and WCFT/WJSU newsrooms. But in Harrisburg, WHP-TV competes very directly with (and right across the street from) WHTM, and we’d have to imagine that any attempt to combine those news operations would result in stiffer scrutiny from the FCC and the Justice Department.

*On the NEW JERSEY shore, Catholic outlet WFJS-FM (89.3 Freehold) wants more power: it’s applying to jump from 3.8 kW/164′ DA to 15.2 kW/164′ DA, with most of that extra power aimed southward to improve the station’s coverage of northern Ocean County around Lakewood and Manasquan.

Across the river from Philadelphia, WIFI (1460 Florence) has had problems with the FCC before when it comes to running its 5250 watts of day power after dark. WIFI’s supposed to drop to 540 watts at night, but in June 2012, Commission agents caught it running day power well past its licensed 8:30 PM power-down. An inspection found that WIFI’s automation system was programmed to switch to night power at 10:30 PM; two years later, the Enforcement Bureau has slapped WIFI with a $6,000 Notice of Apparent Liability, $2,000 higher than usual because of WIFI’s prior history of operating over-power at night.

*There’s a stealth format change in CANADA: CKJN (92.9 Haldimand-Norfolk ON) quietly dropped its “Moose” AC format in mid-May, flipping to “Country 92.9,” thus far without any sort of web or social media presence. The Vista-owned station thus ends up with the same format and slogan as the next 92.9 signal to the west, the FM booster for CKCO (630 Chatham-Kent). It’s part of a larger Vista strategy to create a handful of nationwide brands for its formats, though several of the other new brands (such as classic rock “Goat”) are represented for now only in Vista’s western markets.

src-icimusiqueRadio-Canada continues its slow migration to a new brand of “Ici” today with a renaming of its Espace Musique network. As of this morning, the French-language counterpart to CBC’s Radio Two rebrands simply as “Ici Musique.”

Up north in Quebec, Radio-Canada has won CRTC approval to change frequency and increase power on CBJ-6 (93.7 La Baie). The relay of CBJ (93.7 Chicoutimi) will go from 85.7 watts on 93.7 to 544 watts on 102.1.

While we’re in the Saguenay region, we note (via Steve Faguy) that Attraction Radio is asking the CRTC for permission to flip CKRS (98.3) to an affiliate of Rhythme FM, the Quebec network owned by CKRS’ former owner Cogeco. The move requires the CRTC to sign off on removing a condition of license that now requires CKRS to carry news-talk programming.

In the Maritimes, the CRTC had to decide between two competing applications for new community stations on 88.7 near Halifax, one from the Cobequid Radio Society in Lower Sackville, N.S. and another from Hubbards Radio Society in Hubbards, N.S., along the coast west of Halifax. The Cobequid application drew an unusual complaint from CKDU (88.1) at Dalhousie University in Halifax, which was concerned not only about possible signal interference but also the “visual similarity” of the 88.1 and 88.7 frequencies. The CRTC said there were other frequencies potentially available in Lower Sackville, just north of Halifax, while 88.7 would be the best frequency for serving Hubbards and nearby Colfax – and so it approved both applications, granting the new 88.7 to Hubbards while giving Cobequid a partial approval conditioned on finding a different frequency within 90 days. The Hubbards station will run 1080 watts/150 m, non-directional.

*The strike by employees of Maritime Broadcasting System’s stations in Saint John, New Brunswick has dragged on for so long that it had fallen off our radar – but it’s finally over. After being on strike and then locked out for two years, the “Saint John Seven” and their union, the Canadian Media Guild, have reached an agreement that will bring them back to work with a four-year contract, signing bonuses and improved pay.

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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: June 3, 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/

*CANADA‘s public broadcaster has long had a challenging relationship with commercials. What we now know as the CBC grew out of openly commercial predecessors, the old Canadian National Railways network and the subsequent CRBC – and even after becoming a government service in the 1930s, CBC continued to carry commercial programming on its French and English radio services right up until 1974, when those networks finally went fully non-commercial. CBC Television and its French-language counterpart, Radio-Canada, have continued to carry commercials ever since. And now CBC’s Radio 2 network and Radio Canada’s Espace Musique service will once again be carrying their own commercial load, thanks to a decision in last week’s CRTC renewal of the CBC’s licenses.

cbcr2To say the proposal has been controversial would be an understatement: while CBC makes the case that federal budget cutbacks have forced the networks’ hand, Canada’s commercial stations don’t want the extra competition and listener groups are worried (not without reason) that limited commercial interruptions on Radio 2 and Espace Musique will eventually lead to commercials, probably in even larger doses, on the flagship Radio 1 and Premiere Chaine networks, which remain commercial free for the moment.

The CRTC is playing its decision as an experiment: it’s giving the CBC three years to see how a limited advertising load on Radio 2 and Espace Musique will work, with some tight restrictions. Each network will be allowed to run no more than four minutes of national advertising each hour, with no more than two minutes of spots at a time; no local ads will be allowed – and in 2016, the CRTC will revisit the issue to see how it’s worked and decide whether the CBC can continue running ads.

*Along the US 6 corridor in north central Pennsylvania, it’s the end of an era in the small town of Kane, which is now without a local commercial radio station for the first time in almost 60 years. WADP (960) signed on in Kane in 1954, back when the borough’s population topped 6,000, and while the AM station (later WKZA and WQLE) left the air two decades ago, it was succeeded by an FM competitor on 103.9 known at first in the 1980s as WRXZ and then WIFI, and later on as WLMI. Former Boston broadcaster Chuck Crouse owned the station through much of the 1990s, selling it in 2006 to Olean-based Colonial Radio Group – and after going through several formats and calls over several years, Kane’s 103.9, now known as WBYB, went silent for the last time last week, with a Colonial memo citing “the continuing dismal economic conditions” in the Kane area, which now has barely half the population it did in the 1950s.

Unlike the old AM 960 facility, which simply went dark, the 103.9 license will stay alive at a new home. It’s moving to a new city of license of Eldred, with a new 1.2 kW/737′ class A signal on the same tower east of Smethport that’s home to Colonial’s WXMT (106.3 Smethport) and competitor WHKS (94.9 Port Allegany). It appears that once the 103.9 Eldred signal signs on in a few weeks, it will be carrying Colonial’s “Big Bob Country,” which had been on 103.9 in Kane before it began simulcasting news-talk WVTT (96.7) from Olean and which has lived on through HD-subchannel-fed translators.

(Ironically, that 96.7 signal, now licensed to Portville, N.Y., was another Colonial move-in from a smaller Pennsylvania town, having moved from Coudersport a few years back.)

*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: June 1, 2009

Three weeks after WTKK (96.9 Boston) pulled him off the airwaves of eastern MASSACHUSETTS, talker Jay Severin will be back on the air tomorrow, following what Greater Media says were ongoing discussions about the direction his show will take. “We have had conversations with Jay Severin over the past several weeks about his hurtful, inappropriate remarks,” said a Greater Media statement released Saturday. “He understands that we will not accept this type of commentary on our airwaves in the future…We want to emphasize that WTKK still strongly supports an open and spirited debate about the many issues our community and our country currently face. There will no doubt be times when people disagree with what Jay says. Our goal is to maintain a level of discourse that is compelling and thought-provoking, yet civil and respectful. While we will not always succeed in walking this line, we will continually strive to do so.” Severin disappeared from WTKK’s afternoon slot following comments he made about Mexicans in the wake of the swine flu epidemic; it wasn’t his first suspension in a long career of controversy, and it’s a pretty safe bet it won’t be his last.

In NEW HAMPSHIRE and MAINE, several new construction permits have been saved from deletion, thanks to the FCC rule that allows small business owners to get an 18-month extension if they buy a CP prior to the three-year construction deadline.

In Maine, Daniel Priestly’s Waterfront Communications has transferred CPs on 1230 in Newport and 1240 in Ellsworth to Gary Fogg’s Wireless Fidelity of North America, Inc. for $22,000 each, while in Stratford, N.H., Jackman Holding Company has sold WTTT (98.7) to Virginia-based Silver Fish Broadcasting, controlled by Carlton and Aubrey Fitch and Peyton Young, for $100,000. (WTTT has a still-pending application from 2007 to change community of license to Bretton Woods – and to put its transmitter atop Mount Washington.)

In northwestern PENNSYLVANIA, the consolidation of sister stations WICU-TV (Channel 12) and WSEE-TV (Channel 35) in Erie entered its final stage late last week, when several WSEE staffers offered on-air goodbyes as the CBS affiliate prepared to vacate its longtime downtown studio building and reconfigure its news schedule. While WSEE and WICU had been sharing services behind the scenes for several years, including a common master control and sales department (at WICU’s State Street studios) and a common creative-services department (at the WSEE building), their news staffs had remained separate and competitive…until Thursday, when WSEE’s airstaff signed off from 1220 Peach Street.

Several familiar WSEE faces – most notably morning/noon anchor Raychel Vendetti- won’t be making the move to State Street, where separate WSEE-branded newscasts will continue to air in some timeslots beginning today. (The details of the new schedule were still being firmed up over the weekend, we hear.)

Ten Years Ago: May 31, 2004

Three weeks after WTKK (96.9 Boston) pulled him off the airwaves of eastern MASSACHUSETTS, talker Jay Severin will be back on the air tomorrow, following what Greater Media says were ongoing discussions about the direction his show will take. “We have had conversations with Jay Severin over the past several weeks about his hurtful, inappropriate remarks,” said a Greater Media statement released Saturday. “He understands that we will not accept this type of commentary on our airwaves in the future…We want to emphasize that WTKK still strongly supports an open and spirited debate about the many issues our community and our country currently face. There will no doubt be times when people disagree with what Jay says. Our goal is to maintain a level of discourse that is compelling and thought-provoking, yet civil and respectful. While we will not always succeed in walking this line, we will continually strive to do so.” Severin disappeared from WTKK’s afternoon slot following comments he made about Mexicans in the wake of the swine flu epidemic; it wasn’t his first suspension in a long career of controversy, and it’s a pretty safe bet it won’t be his last.

In NEW HAMPSHIRE and MAINE, several new construction permits have been saved from deletion, thanks to the FCC rule that allows small business owners to get an 18-month extension if they buy a CP prior to the three-year construction deadline.

In Maine, Daniel Priestly’s Waterfront Communications has transferred CPs on 1230 in Newport and 1240 in Ellsworth to Gary Fogg’s Wireless Fidelity of North America, Inc. for $22,000 each, while in Stratford, N.H., Jackman Holding Company has sold WTTT (98.7) to Virginia-based Silver Fish Broadcasting, controlled by Carlton and Aubrey Fitch and Peyton Young, for $100,000. (WTTT has a still-pending application from 2007 to change community of license to Bretton Woods – and to put its transmitter atop Mount Washington.)

In northwestern PENNSYLVANIA, the consolidation of sister stations WICU-TV (Channel 12) and WSEE-TV (Channel 35) in Erie entered its final stage late last week, when several WSEE staffers offered on-air goodbyes as the CBS affiliate prepared to vacate its longtime downtown studio building and reconfigure its news schedule. While WSEE and WICU had been sharing services behind the scenes for several years, including a common master control and sales department (at WICU’s State Street studios) and a common creative-services department (at the WSEE building), their news staffs had remained separate and competitive…until Thursday, when WSEE’s airstaff signed off from 1220 Peach Street.

Several familiar WSEE faces – most notably morning/noon anchor Raychel Vendetti- won’t be making the move to State Street, where separate WSEE-branded newscasts will continue to air in some timeslots beginning today. (The details of the new schedule were still being firmed up over the weekend, we hear.)

Fifteen Years Ago: May 28, 1999

One of the nation’s fastest-growing minority-owned broadcasters is entering MASSACHUSETTS. From its base in Washington, D.C., Radio One has been branching out into markets such as Detroit and Cleveland. This week, it agreed to pay KJI Broadcasting $10 million for WCAV (97.7) in Brockton. While it’s pretty much a given that WCAV’s country format will switch to something with an urban focus once the sale goes through, it’s not immediately clear what hope Radio One has of using WCAV to reach Boston’s urban community. While the Class A station has a CP to move from the south end of Brockton to the north side, it’s still tightly bound by WOKQ (97.5 Dover NH) up the coast and co-channels WINQ Winchendon MA and WCTY Norwich CT, so a massive power upgrade to reach Boston seems unlikely.

Radio One, which just recently went public, probably won’t stop buying in the Bay State just yet — and NERW has to wonder if this is the owner the Nash estate would feel comfortable selling WILD to? If not, the little urban daytimer could face its biggest threat yet. This will be an interesting one to follow.

Up the coast we go to MAINE, where Cumulus puts a new spin on the problem of over-concentration of group ownership. It seems the company’s plan to buy what was left of Mountain Wireless’ Skowhegan operation (WSKW 1160 and WHQO 107.9) would have put it over the revenue share the FCC and Justice Department want to see. But rather than spin WHQO off to a commercial operator who might provide competition to Cumulus (and Pilot, which controls the other half of the market, more or less), WHQO will be spun off to Maine Public Radio, which won’t have to pay a penny. All sides say the deal will bring public radio to a new audience in Central Maine — but the NERW-mobile wasn’t too far from Skowhegan a year ago when we were able to tune in all six of the existing MPR stations. At once. Meantime, fans of WSKW’s sports format will still be able to hear it on FM as well once WHQO is spun off; it’s already being relayed on Cumulus’ WIGY (97.5 Madison). (2009 update: the transfer never took place.)

A new radio station is on the air in VERMONT. John Bulmer’s WRRO (93.7 Addison) has been heard with classic rock as “the Arrow.” Meantime, the 100.9 in Middlebury, which used to run the same format and slogan, has changed calls from WGTK to WWFY, which were the calls on the 93.7 CP until a few weeks ago. WWFY’s new format is contemporary hits as “Y-100”.

There’s a TV affiliation swap in Burlington, as Fox affiliate WFFF (Channel 44) adds a secondary WB affiliation, with WB shows running at 10 PM after Fox is over for the night. Former WB outlet WBVT-LP (Channel 39) moves to UPN, while ex-UPN outlet WWBI-LP (Channel 27) in Plattsburgh goes independent. Could WFFF be making backup plans if the simmering battle between Fox and its affiliates over compensation erupts into full-fledged rebellion?

Topping the NEW YORK news this week is the sale of WMHQ (Channel 45) in Schenectady — again. Tribune will pay $18.5 million for the Capital District’s secondary PBS station, converting it into a WB affiliate. You’ll recall that Sinclair offered $23 million for the station last year, withdrawing the offer after running into its own financial difficulties. WMHT will use the money from the WMHQ sale to build its new studios and offices for the remaining services it operates (WMHT-TV and FM), while WMHQ will likely end up being operated mostly from Tribune’s WPIX New York (much as Paramount is doing with its UPN stations in New Bedford/Providence and Pittsburgh).

One note from CANADA this week: While in Buffalo today, we hit “scan” on the NERW-mobile radio and found it coming to a stop on 91.7 — the new FM home of CHOW (1470) from Welland, Ontario. The 25 kW signal is quite good in Buffalo and environs, but it’s not using the familiar “See-How” IDs from the AM side. Instead, it’s “Spirit Radio,” albeit still with country music and Broadcast News on the hour. The AM signal is still on the air for a few months with a simulcast, but we expect the towers on Regional Road 58 to go away by winter. As a result of the new FM signal, Niagara Falls tourist radio CFLZ has finally left its original 91.9 spot for 105.1, where it’s sounding pretty cheesy with almost-nonstop promotion for Casino Niagara and very poor audio. The signal from the Skylon tower is still very good, though — strong enough to stop the scan as we climbed the hills south of Buffalo heading for Springville.