In this week’s issue… Inside Clear Channel’s two-market push for country – Talk’s landing spot in Pittsburgh – NY morning host, RIP – New AM gears up in central PA – Splitsville for Gannett – PLUS: Your first chance to pre-order Tower Site Calendar 2015, plus more from the new NERW Store!

By SCOTT FYBUSH

wpgb-big1047*Few broadcast companies have caused as much of a stir in as many markets as once as Clear Channel did with its moves in Pittsburgh, Boston, Providence and Cape Cod.

We chronicled the details of all those big moves in NERW Extra editions as they happened. On Wednesday, NERW readers were the first to learn about the applications to massively downgrade WWBB (101.5 Providence) and WCIB (101.9 Falmouth) in order to upgrade Boston-market WBWL (101.7 Lynn), the country “Bull” that drew the highest ratings in that signal’s history even in its current status as a rather impaired directional class A signal. And then on Thursday came the abrupt move of the WPGB (104.7 Pittsburgh) talk format to WJAS (1320 Pittsburgh) so that Clear Channel could try to replicate its Boston “Bull” success with a new “Big 104.7” country format there.

So what does it all mean?

[private]

Let’s start with the New England signal shuffle, where there’s a lot of confusion about what’s happening and why. The “what” is easy: WWBB will leave its longtime transmitter site on the old WNAC-TV tower in Rehoboth, Massachusetts, moving south to one of the towers of Clear Channel’s WHJJ (920) in East Providence, where it will run just 4.9 kW/361′ with a directional notch to protect WBWL to the north. On Cape Cod, WCIB (101.9 Falmouth) will stay at its present site and remain a class B, but will drop to 13 kW from its present 50 kW, with a sharp directional notch toward WBWL. The 101.7 signal, at least in the current filing, drops its directional notch protecting WWBB but otherwise remains a class A signal from the One Financial Center tower in Boston’s financial district.

wedx-bullonlyWhy pull back so far on a signal that’s right up there near the top of the ratings in Providence? The obvious answer is because Providence is a much smaller market than Boston, and most of Clear Channel’s revenue stream comes directly from its top ten markets (where, we’d note, Boston has long had the weakest station lineup in the Clear Channel major-market portfolio, with just two full class Bs and two niche AMs along with the recent addition of 101.7.)

Removing the directional notch that keeps 101.7 from going south will pick up hundreds of thousands of potential listeners on the South Shore, but the big win for the Bull actually comes across a much broader swath of suburban Boston, not just south but also west, where adjacent-channel interference from WWBB’s current potent signal makes 101.7 a tough catch. The problem for Clear Channel until now has been this: even though 101.5 can be heard clearly pretty much everywhere from the Rhode Island state line up to the Mass Pike, the boundaries of the Nielsen Audio-designated Providence market end at the southern Norfolk County line, just a few miles from the Rehoboth tower site. And in the land of big-market radio, all the signal in the world is of no use outside the boundaries of a station’s home market. (Or, to put it another way, WWBB could be the most popular station in Foxboro and Sharon, but because those communities are in the Boston market, B101 listeners there aren’t worth anything to Clear’s bottom line.)

The bottom line, then, turns out to be this: the moves for both WWBB and WBWL will better align each signal’s coverage with the boundaries of the market where it makes its money, while significantly reducing the big area between the two stations where both suffer mutual interference.

So how will WWBB’s new class A signal perform? Better than you might think: because the WHJJ site is much closer to downtown Providence, the new 101.5 will actually put almost as much signal into downtown Providence as the current one does. And because so much of the Providence market’s population is so tightly packed close to Providence, the areas where the 101.5 signal will go away within the market’s boundaries are, for the most part, not areas where many ratings participants live. (Though, having said that, could a format swap be possible between 101.5 and the higher-powered, lower-rated WSNE 93.3, which isn’t going much of anywhere with its AC format?)

As for WCIB, its downgrade is a smaller one: its DA notch will fall almost entirely outside the Cape Cod market, and the power decrease from 50 to 13 kW is likely to be noticeable only on summer days when its slightly reduced “oomph” makes it easier for co-channel WFAN-FM from New York to overpower it during episodes of tropospheric ducting.

wjas-newlogo*On to Pittsburgh: we’ve already expended plenty of lines in this column writing about the decline of the talk format, including the column just a few weeks ago that correctly predicted WPGB’s imminent flip. So the more interesting part of this tale, this week, is the over on the WJAS side of the fence, where fans and staffers of the longtime standards format aren’t letting the flip to talk go without some noise.

When Renda Broadcasting sold the WJAS license to Frank Iorio, Jr., it was pretty much a given that the standards wouldn’t be coming along for the ride: the audience they reached was aging even more rapidly than that of WPGB’s talkers (something of a remarkable feat considering how quickly the talk audience is aging), and the lineup of classic Pittsburgh personalities such as Jack Bogut and Billy Cardille added to the station’s expenses, even if they weren’t getting paid as much as they did in their heyday.

But while WJAS’ audience may not have been especially large or demo-friendly, it was passionate, and now it doesn’t have anywhere obvious to go. (The last remaining AM-only music station in town, WZUM 1550, plays music a few decades newer and with a rather more urban bent than WJAS did.)

And the WJAS personalities aren’t going away without making some noise: Bogut, in particular, took to social media to remind the market that the choice to leave was the station’s, not his; he also appeared over the weekend on WRCT (88.3) to talk to radio nostalgist Jay Thurber about where he’s at.

*It’s still not entirely clear just how closely Iorio is working with Clear Channel on the new WJAS. The programming lineup was imported intact from the old WPGB, complete with the “local” Bloomdaddy morning show that originates down I-70 at Clear Channel’s WWVA (1170 Wheeling WV), and the new WJAS streams over Clear Channel’s iHeartRadio service.

As for Clear Channel, the new WPGB is playing straight from the same plan that worked so well in Boston: it’s launching with 10,000 commercial-free songs, which will be followed this fall by the launch of the syndicated Bobby Bones show in morning drive. It won’t challenge CBS Radio’s WDSY (107.9) for the title of top country station in town, and it’s not meant to – but it might notch just enough from Y108 to keep Clear Channel’s other FMs, rocker WDVE (102.5), top-40 WKST-FM (Kiss 96.1) and classic hits WWSW (94.5 3WS) lined up in the top 3 spots atop the ratings.

It’s all kind of an ugly, cynical corporate game…but that’s big-market radio in 2014, isn’t it?

*In a world of generic radio personalities, NEW YORK‘s Steve Post always stood out. In his time at WBAI (99.5) from the mid-sixties until 1982, and then at WNYC-FM (93.9) from 1982 until 2001, Post distinguished himself as one of the crankiest, most cynical voices in a timeslot more typically filled by sunnier dispositions. Post, who died August 3 at age 70, began his radio days as an accountant at WBAI in 1965, but moved into on-air duties, says his colleague Larry Josephson, when he turned out to be “profoundly unqualified for that position.”

Steve Post (photo: WNYC Archives)
Steve Post (photo: WNYC Archives)

At WBAI, Post (hosting a weekend overnight show called “The Outside” and later the morning “Room 101” show) worked alongside Josephson and the great Bob Fass, turning out many years of engaging free-form radio, deflating authority figures and raising plenty of money to keep the station running along the way.

In 1982, Post shifted down the dial to city-owned WNYC-FM, where he took over classical morning show duties when the station dropped the Boston-based “Morning pro musica” (and no, Daily News, the host of that show didn’t spell his last name “Lurtzema,” nor was Robert J. ever a WNYC-based host). For two decades, Post’s grumbles woke up the city, right up until the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks pushed the last of daytime music programming off WNYC-FM and turned 93.9 into a news and talk outlet. Post returned to WNYC in 2002 as host of “The No Show,” an eclectic freeform mix of the sort that public radio, sadly, can’t seem to sustain very much these days. The show last aired in 2009, but it lives on in WNYC’s archives (and Post, in a way, lives on in this fantastic eulogy by his friend Larry Josephson.)

We note, too, the passing of a much more corporate broadcaster. Ed Joyce is best known for his time as president of CBS News from 1983 until 1985, when he presided over the first in the long string of cutbacks at the news division. But long before that, Joyce was an on-air personality at WCBS (880), where he started as a jazz and talk host in 1959 and remained on board through the transition to all-news in 1967, at which point he began his rise through the executive ranks. Joyce, who’d been retired since 1986, died August 2 at his home in Redding, Connecticut, at age 81.

*There’s not much in the world as obscure as “overnight on the number-three commercial talker in the market,” but we pride ourselves on being comprehensive hereabouts, so we note that Dr. Joy Browne, last briefly heard in New York on WWRL (1600) after a long run on WOR (710), is now being heard from 1-4 AM on Salem’s WNYM (970 Hackensack NJ). In her new  slot, Browne replaces “Overnight America” out of KMOX in St. Louis.

*With so many programming decisions dictated at the corporate and regional levels, it’s not really clear what a “program director” does these days at a Clear Channel news/talk outlet, which may explain why the last few occupants of that job have shared duties at WHAM (1180) and WHTK (1280) in Rochester and at WSYR (570/106.9) down the Thruway 90 minutes away in Syracuse. That post is vacant at the moment, now that Aaron Trimmer has traded upstate New York for Richmond, Virginia, where he takes over programming duties (such as they are) at WRVA (1140) and its sports sister WRNL (910).

Speaking of Rochester Radio People on the Move, Marti Casper didn’t stay off the air long after losing her morning gig at WFKL (Fickle 93.3) – she’s now doing part-time work on WLGZ (Legends 102.7), and we’re glad to hear her back on the air!

*The NBC affiliates serving Buffalo (as well as Portland and Bangor, MAINE) are getting new owners. Read our NERW Extra from last Tuesday (one of three extra editions in the very busy news week last week!) for all the details about Gannett’s big split of its broadcast and print properties, which will land WGRZ-TV (Channel 2) as well as WCSH (Channel 6) in Portland and WLBZ (Channel 2) in Bangor in the yet-to-be-renamed new broadcast division.

*The latest management change at Buffalo’s WNED public radio is the ouster of Gabe DeMaio, who’d most recently been program director of classical WNED-FM (94.5). DiMaio also worked for WNED’s news sister station, WBFO (88.7), back when it was still WNED’s competition. The new structure at WNED finds VP of broadcasting Ron Santora taking over responsibility for radio programming, aided by WBFO’s incoming news director, Brian Meyer, who starts full-time in September.

Chase Daniels (photo: WNKI)
Chase Daniels (photo: WNKI)

*Chase Daniels is going to get to know New York’s lovely Route 13 pretty well, at least for a while. After spending the last few years as afternoon guy and assistant PD at Community Broadcasters’ WNKI (106.1 Corning), as well as middays at “Wink” sister station WPGI (100.9 Horseheads), Chase starts a new gig today as imaging director at Saga’s Cayuga Radio Group in Ithaca, where he’ll be heard in afternoons on WQNY (103.7). No replacement has been named yet in the Elmira/Corning cluster.

In Geneva, the LPFM at Hobart and William Smith Colleges is off the air for the moment. The colleges are in the process of moving WHWS-LP (105.7) and its sister public radio station, WEOS (89.5) out of the aging house on Routes 5 and 20 where they’ve been located for the last couple of decades. The new WEOS/WHWS facility in the colleges’ student center is still under construction, but there’s time pressure to renovate the old house for student lodging in just a few weeks, so while WEOS stays on the air from one corner of the house, WHWS has gone silent until its new home is ready. TUESDAY UPDATE:We were actually a bit behind on this story – the new WEOS/WHWS facility is already on line and both stations returned to the air before the end of July, thanks to quick construction work by the colleges and the engineering team from WXXI in Rochester, which operates WEOS.

In the Hudson Valley, WGXC (90.7 Acra) is relocating its Catskill studio, one of three sites from which the community station originates programming. About eight hours a week of WGXC programs come from a studio at the Catskill Community Center, where a three-year residency arrangement is ending. But the station will continue to have a home on the west side of the Hudson, where it’s moving to new digs in the Catskill Public Library in September, where the Daily Mail reports WGXC will get to use the Carnegie Room for free, paying only for its own electricity and internet costs.

When Premiere pulled the plug on its 24/7 Comedy service, the only New York affiliate that was affected was WJIP (1370 Ellenville), Clear Channel’s lonely little AM up there in the old “Borscht Belt” of Catskills comedy fame. It briefly appeared that WJIP might end up with the independent comedy service that’s trying to fill the void left behind by the old Premiere network, but instead WJIP has gone back to a previous format, simulcasting news and talk from sister station WKIP (1450 Poughkeepsie).

2186ITHAcvr.indd*Looking for some good late-summer reading? You’re doubly in luck: first, because today’s the publication date for “Ithaca Radio,” the latest local radio offering from the historically-minded folks at Arcadia Publishing, and second, because that and many other great titles are now available through our revamped, easier-to-use Fybush.com Store!

The Ithaca book tells the story of one of America’s great small markets, the launching pad for decades of great radio and TV talents, not least of which is Keith Olbermann, the Cornell graduate who wrote the introduction. The book itself is by Peter King Steinhaus and his brother Rick Sommers Steinhaus, brothers and Ithaca College graduates who also went on to big things in radio, and we can’t wait to get a look at all the great images and stories they’ve captured for their new volume.

(And do please consider ordering this one, as well as the recent Capital District Radio volume, the new NRC AM Log, and of course the soon-to-be-released Tower Site Calendar 2015, directly from our new store – your purchase directly supports the hard work we do to make this website happen, week in and week out.)

*Along the Connecticut state line, Dennis Jackson’s Vineyard Public Radio is requesting a bigger signal for WJZZ (90.1 South Salem). If it’s granted, the station would move a little south and more than a little bit upward, going from 440 watts at 42 feet below average terrain to 220 watts at 151′ above. Jackson’s also seeking a big increase for translator W279CI (103.7 Georgetown CT), which would jump from its present CP as a 10-watt signal from Jackson’s Wilton home (relaying WJZZ) to become a 250-watt relay of public radio WSHU-FM (91.1 Fairfield).

East of Albany, WHAZ-FM (97.5 Hoosick Falls) is hoping to get back on the air from a new permanent location after being displaced from its old site on Mount Anthony above Bennington, VERMONT. The simulcast of religious WHAZ (1330 Troy) has been operating at low power under STA from a temporary site right in Hoosick Falls, but it’s now applying for a new site on a State Police tower on Fire Tower Road near Grafton, where it would run 910 watts/843′.

Speaking of Vermont, Christian Ministries is applying for more power at its WCMD-FM (89.9 Barre). It’s been running 940 watts/590 from a site on Thierriault Hill south of Barre for years, but it tells the FCC it can increase to 1500 watts from the same site without causing any prohibited interference to its nearby dial neighbors. (Ironically, both of the critical stations, WSSH 89.7 Lisbon NH and Christian Ministries’ own WGLG 89.9 Swanton, signed on long after WCMD’s 1996 debut; could the Barre station have gone to even higher power before those two signals existed?)

*Boston’s big sports franchises are getting some new affiliates in southern New England this fall. In RHODE ISLAND, Entercom’s WVEI-FM (103.7 Westerly) is picking up Bruins broadcasts, even though they originate from WBZ-FM (98.5 Boston), CBS Radio’s archrival to WVEI’s parent station, WEEI-FM (93.7). CBS also originates the Patriots network from “The Sports Hub,” and those games will now be heard in much of Connecticut on CBS Radio’s own WTIC (1080 Hartford), a move from last season’s carriage on Clear Channel’s WUCS (97.9 Enfield).

(And while we’re in Hartford, we note that former WDRC-FM PD Grahame Winters is back on the air, filling in at WTIC’s sister station WRCH 100.5. Welcome back!)

*For many decades, the calls “WBZ” and the name “Gary LaP.” meant just one thing: Gary LaPierre, morning man for more than 40 years at WBZ radio. But now there’s a new “Gary LaP.” coming to 1170 Soldiers Field Road, where Gary LaPlante has been named news director for WBZ-TV (Channel 4) and WSBK (Channel 38). LaPlante has been assistant news director at WFXT (Channel 25) for the last few years; before that, he’d been a news manager at WXXA and WTEN in Albany and at WFSB in Hartford.

It didn’t take long for WBOQ (104.9 Gloucester) to pick a morning replacement for Charlie Curtis: Catherine Browne started on the wakeup shift last week, moving to an earlier wakeup from her previous 10-noon shift at “North Shore 104.9.”

The town of Acton has been granted its application for a new LPFM on 94.9. The new signal will transmit from the communications tower next to the Great Hill water tower just south of the town center.

*When the FCC tallied up renewal applications from licensees in PENNSYLVANIA, it found there was just a single station in the Keystone State that didn’t file for renewal in this cycle. That was WFSJ-LP (103.7 Indiana), which had belonged to Chris Lash’s Godstock Ministries organization. Lash transferred control of Godstock back in 2007 to Sharon Varner of Indiana, but with no renewal application on file (and no evidence that the station is still on the air), it appears this early LPFM has gone defunct.

wkge-wwgeFrom the “not dead yet” file comes an update on Birach Broadcasting’s WKGE (850 Johnstown), which went silent in 2012, saddled with the considerable expense of maintaining a nine-tower directional array for its 10 kW signal. The station has returned to the air only briefly in the nearly two years since its last LMA (with WWGE 1400 up in Loretto) came to an end; most recently, it signed on for a few days in late July with a 30-watt auxiliary transmitter to keep the license alive (in a sort of zombie sense of “alive”) for a while longer.

If and when that Johnstown 850 finally succumbs (and from recent accounts of the state of the nine-tower site, including an FCC notice of violation for overgrown conditions at the tower bases, it’s in dire shape indeed), it might provide a bit of an opening for an improved signal at another new 850 that’s getting ready for construction to the east. Ted Schober won at auction for a new Enola-licensed 850, and last week he filed his application for a CP for the new signal, which he plans to build just to the west of Harrisburg’s WHP (580). Schober proposes to put four towers there, with three of them aiming 2600 watts mostly eastward into Harrisburg and all four of them pushing out 1400 watts at night with a big lobe aimed north and another aimed east. Schober’s application notes that the new site, if granted, may also become a diplexed home to WHYF (720 Shiremanstown), which recently lost its licensed site south of Harrisburg.

wdac*How much are two religious FMs surrounding Philadelphia worth? In the case of WDAC (94.5 Lancaster) and WBYN-FM (107.5 Boyertown), plus Reading translators W279CB (103.7) and W300BZ (107.9), a license transfer values the entire “WDAC Radio Company” at $8.4 million. The stations, owned by cousins of the Crawfords who own the much larger Crawford Broadcasting, had been owned in equal 1/3 shares by Dan Crawford, Paul Hollinger and Richard T. Crawford, and it’s Richard Crawford who’s buying out his co-owners for $2.8 million each. NERW notes that the Boyertown station alone was priced at $22 million when Nassau almost bought it just before the market crashed in 2008; even if this sale is discounted because it’s all in the family, it still represents quite a decline from that inflated price tag.

An AM in the state’s northwestern corner is selling for far less: Sam Jordan and William Stafford make up “Greater Corry Area Broadcasting LLP,” which is paying $60,000 to buy WWCB (1370 Corry) from William Hammond’s Corry Communications.

*Radio People on the Move: Elizabeth Pembleton is the new VP/market manager for Cumulus in the Lehigh Valley, overseeing WCTO (Cat Country 96.1) and WLEV (100.7). She’s been sales director for the cluster since 2011.

In Hazleton, GEOS Communications isn’t staying very long on 105.1: translator W286CV just moved there after having been licensed up in Mountain Top on 104.5. Now the relay of WAZL (1490 Hazleton) is applying to shift to 94.5, boosting power from 80 to 130 watts.

cjgb*August is a busy month in “cottage country,” north of Toronto, and no less so on the radio dial, where two new signals are now testing. In Meaford, just east of Owen Sound, Evanov’s latest soft AC “Jewel” is CJGB (99.3), which is now targeting September for its official launch. And just to the east of there, in Collingwood, MZ Media’s “Classical 102.9,” CFMO, is also in test mode and preparing for its official debut as the northward extension of parent station CFMZ (96.3) from Toronto.

Another potential addition to the very crowded Toronto-area FM dial: Radio Markham York, which recently signed on CFMS (105.9) in Markham, is applying for a rebroadcaster in Aurora, a few km north of its existing coverage area. CFMS-FM-1 would operate on 91.7, with 45 watts average/150 watts max DA/179.5 m.

*Paul Wainwright has died. The former afternoon host at CIXL (91.7 Welland) from 2005-2012 was also an actor and, in recent years, a truck driver. Wainwright had worked in Hamilton at CKOC, CHAM and CKLH; he was 56 when a heart attack felled him on July 15.

And we’re equally remiss in failing to note the death of Bill Stephenson on July 22. Stephenson was a pioneering sports broadcaster in Canada when he joined CFRB (1010) in 1960 as sports director, a position he held until he suffered a stroke in 2001. In addition to his work at CFRB, Stephenson was also the radio voice of Argonauts football and the field reporter for CTV broadcasts of CFL football for many years. He was 85 years old.

*As Neil Young almost once sang, “There is a town in north Ontario…that no longer has a community radio station.” The town is Iroquois Falls, way up there on Highway 11 northeast of Timmins, and the station was CJFL (104.7), which signed off July 21. Dan Sys at Canadian Radio News quotes owner Joel Lagace as saying, “Because of the decline in the Iroquois Falls market we just don’t have enough revenue to keep the station on the air.” CJFL had been on the air since 2005.

Also dead: CTV’s 100 kW analog channel 2 facility up in Wiarton, Ontario, serving Owen Sound and the Bruce Peninsula. CKCO-TV-2 has been off the air since February, and the essential Steve Faguy shares the story of how a nasty dispute with the owner of the land that provides access to the tower site led CTV to decide it couldn’t keep the station on the air. CTV says it’s received only 30 or so viewer complaints since pulling the plug on the signal, which was a frequent tropo and E-skip visitor for TV DXers south of the border.

In Quebec, CJLM (103.5 Joliette) is changing hands. Attraction Radio, which owns five other stations in small and medium Quebec markets, is paying C$750,000 to pick up the station from the employee cooperative that saved the station from going dark back in 2005.

*Here’s a different nickname: now that Acadia Broadcasting has closed on its purchase of CKNI (91.9 Moncton NB) from Rogers, it has flipped the former “91.9 News” to AC under the new moniker “91.9 the Bend.” Our content partners at RadioInsight report: “CKNI’s airstaff includes Josh McLellan in the morning from 6-10am, Leo Melanson from 10am-2pm and Jeannie Mac from 2-7pm.”

*And finally this week: if reading NERW isn’t enough, you can see us later this week, too! Editor Scott Fybush will be the special guest Thursday (August 14) on This Week in Radio Tech, or “TWiRT,” talking about calendars, broadcast history, and so much more. You can see all the fun on the live stream Thursday at 2 PM (ET) on the GFQ Network, or stay tuned for a link to the edited version, which we’ll share with you just as soon as we have it!

[/private]

CALENDARS — CALENDARS — CALENDARS

Yes, we are working on the 2021 Tower Site Calendar, soon to be released — but you can order it NOW.

This is the 20th year we have been publishing our calendar. It’s still being designed, but we promise you we’ll have plenty of gorgeous tower shots to decorate your walls for the entire year.

As we’re working on it you can order the calendar in advance for 25% off — the lowest price of the season.

And while you’re getting your calendar, don’t forget the other great products in our store.

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, fifteen and – where available – twenty 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: August 12, 2013

Big changes were coming to two big FM signals in the two biggest markets we cover along the East Coast.wwiqThe first shoe to drop was in Philadelphia, where it was pretty much a given that Randy Michaels’ Merlin Media group was looking to unload WWIQ (106.9 Camden NJ), the former Family Radio outlet it had purchased a year and a half ago for $22.5 million, apparently outbidding CBS Radio for the property. Merlin had big plans for WWIQ, pulling Rush Limbaugh away from his longtime home at CBS Radio’s WPHT (1210) and attempting to challenge CBS all-news sister station KYW (1060) with a morning show that was initially fairly heavy on news.

The sale of WWIQ’s New York sister station WEMP (101.9) to CBS removed some of the infrastructure on which WWIQ had depended for its news content, and within the last few months “IQ 106.9″ had eliminated nearly all of its local content in favor of the syndicated Don Imus in morning drive.

And then came the big announcement last week: Merlin was selling WWIQ – but not, as in New York, to CBS Radio. Instead, the class B signal at 106.9 is going to EMF Broadcasting, the California-based religious broadcaster that seems to have a bottomless wallet when it comes to acquisitions. The purchase price hasn’t been officially announced, but it’s rumored to be in the $19 million range, reflecting the softening marketplace for even the biggest of signals. Once the sale closes, 106.9 is expected to take on the “K-Love” contemporary Christian format now heard on WKVP (89.5 Cherry Hill NJ), while the small 89.5 signal across the Delaware River will likely take EMF’s Christian rock “Air 1″ format.

What happens to WWIQ’s current programming? We’d be surprised if Limbaugh doesn’t return to WPHT fairly quickly, giving the ailing AM talker a much-needed boost and probably reducing WPHT’s current hosts to three-hour shifts instead of their current four-hour daily shows. In a market that’s traditionally been resistant to syndicated talk, it’s unlikely the rest of the WWIQ lineup, including Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity and Michael Savage, will get full-market clearances in the near future.

*Just as Philadelphia’s media scene was digesting the latest change among the big FM signals there, the next chapter in NEW YORK‘s longest-running radio saga was unfolding 75 miles to the northeast, where WBAI (99.5) let most of its on-air staff go amidst ongoing financial turmoil.

wbaiUnable to pay its bills – not only payroll, but also the expensive rent check for its Empire State Building transmitter site – WBAI’s local management turned to Pacifica’s national leadership, and it was the network’s interim executive director, Summer Reese, who appeared on the air at 99.5 on Friday afternoon to break the news that “we will be laying off virtually everyone whose voice you recognize on the air.” That includes the entire news department, which broadcast the final “WBAI Evening News” on Friday – but not controversial general manager Berthold Reimers, who’s still at WBAI as part of the stripped-down staff trying to keep the station going.

What remains of WBAI doesn’t appear to be sustainable, at least not for long: Andrew Phillips, formerly of Pacifica’s KPFA in Berkeley, is the new interim PD at WBAI, presiding over a schedule which will apparently be heavy on reruns and offerings from other Pacifica stations. That, in turn, can’t be good news for WBAI’s already anemic fundraising: without local content, what incentive will WBAI’s dwindling base of listeners have to dig deeper to help save the station?

*Out on Cape Cod, Boston University is selling WBUR (1240 West Yarmouth) to Alex Langer. The 1000-watt AM signal helped bring the programming of Boston mothership WBUR-FM (90.9) to the Cape, but WBUR says it’s pleased with the reach of its new outlet, WBUA (92.7 Tisbury) from Martha’s Vineyard, and between 92.7 and its FM relays via WCCT (90.3 Harwich) and WSDH (91.5 Sandwich), the AM signal had become redundant.

Five Years Ago: August 3 & 10, 2009

The latest high-profile Boston pirate FM has been visited by the FCC. “WPOT Hot 97.5” signed on in mid-July on a particularly poorly-chosen frequency, right next door to Entercom’s WAAF relay, WKAF (97.7 Brockton). It didn’t take long for agents from the Quincy field office to track the signal to One Westinghouse Plaza in Hyde Park – and to issue a Notice of Unlicensed Operation to the building’s landlord, Motherbrook LLC/The Hamilton Co. Will pressure on the landlord get “WPOT” off the air – or will it join other unlicensed signals like “Touch 106” as long-term survivors on the Boston dial, much to the chagrin of the city’s licensed operators?

The crisis that threatened to cost two small PBS stations in NEW YORK and PENNSYLVANIA much of their viewer and donor bases was averted late last week. WPBS-TV (Channel 16) in Watertown and WQLN-TV (Channel 54) in Erie faced the loss of their large and loyal audiences in Ottawa and London, Ontario, respectively, when Rogers Cable announced it was planning to replace its over-the-air pickups of those stations’ signals with the feed of Detroit’s PBS station, WTVS (Channel 56), that’s already on Rogers’ fiber backbone across much of Ontario. Viewers in both London and Ottawa responded with protests to Rogers, and the Canadian cable giant agreed to keep WPBS and WQLN on its systems if the U.S.-based stations could arrange for fiber feeds of their signals to Rogers’ Canadian headends. Both stations announced last week that they’ll move forward with those feeds, though they come at a significant cost (north of $30,000 a year) at a time when the stations – especially WQLN – are facing budget shortfalls and cuts in state funding.

They call it “Happy Valley,” but rock fans in State College, PENNSYLVANIA won’t be happy if they try to tune to “QWK Rock” (WQWK 103.1 State College) this morning – there’s word that Forever Broadcasting is flipping the station to a simulcast of news-talk WRSC (1390 State College). This was the second incarnation of WQWK; its previous facility on 97.1 was traded away to 2510 Licenses a few years back.

Ten Years Ago: August 3 & 9, 2004

Plenty of top-40 stations around the country have held reunions of former staffers, but we think it’s a pretty good bet that few have been as well attended as Saturday’s homecoming at WOLF (1490) in Syracuse, NEW YORK.

It’s not every 1000-watt graveyarder AM signal (250 watts, back in the day!) that draws back staffers from as far back as the day the station signed on in 1940 (like former sports director Red Parton, seen at right in the photo at left) – and it’s certainly not every small AM station that draws back staffers who worked for just a few months in the summer of 1978 (like CBS Radio News correspondent Peter King, in the yellow shirt, who came all the way from his home base in Orlando, Florida for the reunion.)

But then, not every little station like WOLF has historical caretakers like Bob Mitchell and Lee Goodman, whose wolf1490.net site chronicles the history of WOLF from the beginning all the way to its current incarnation as part of a four-station Radio Disney simulcast in Central New York. Bob and Lee were planning this reunion for months, and it showed, not only in the former staffers who packed the little WOLF building on Saturday morning but also in the huge collection of WOLF photos, T-shirts, surveys, banners and whatnot that covered the walls of the restaurant where the reunion luncheon was held. Nor, for that matter, do many stations this size have an alumni roster that includes names like Dick Clark (who worked at WOLF while he was a student at Syracuse University), Marv Albert, CBS network announcer Wendell “Windy” Craig, Chicago legend Fred Winston, Detroit morning legend Dick Purtan, Boston radio legend Dale Dorman, WCBS-FM afternoon guy Bob Shannon (who was still Don Bombard in his WOLF days), and the list goes on and on.

Clark sent recorded greetings, and many other former WOLF’ers showed up in person – not just Craig and Bombard but also some other names familiar around NERW-land, like WBZ (1030 Boston) anchor Bob McMahon (who was at WOLF in 1972-73), WWSW (94.5 Pittsburgh) afternoon jock Mike Frazer and Clancy-Mance Communications owner Dave Mance. And plenty of ex-WOLF staffers who stuck around the Syracuse market showed up as well, including WSTM (Channel 3) sports anchor Joe Zone, WYYY (94.5) morning team Rick Gary and PD Kathy Rowe and WBBS (B104.7) morning guy Ron Bee. (We’ve still just scratched the surface of the guest list!)

Rick and Ron co-hosted the three-hour reunion show on WOLF, and we should point out here that the show was made possible by current WOLF owner Craig Fox, who graciously opened up the station’s building on West Kirkpatrick Street (“it hasn’t changed a bit,” commented many attendees) and its airwaves for the event.

Fifteen Years Ago: August 15, 1999

We begin this NERW up in NEW HAMPSHIRE, where Steve Mindich’s WFNX empire is growing again. Just a few weeks after flipping the newly-acquired 92.1 Sanford, Maine to WPHX and a simulcast of WFNX, Mindich is paying $1.6 million for another 92.1, WNHQ Peterborough.WNHQ has been owned since early last year by RadioWorks of Concord, which paid just over $500,000 for the privilege of turning the station into a simulcast of WJYY (105.5 Concord). Once the deal closes (expected to be sometime in November or December), it too will simulcast WFNX’s modern rock.

Just down the valley, Claremont’s WNHQ (106.1) has been granted a construction permit to move its tower across the Connecticut River to Vermont’s Mount Ascutney. Q106’s power will drop from 9500 watts to 1650, but the new antenna will be at 673 meters above average terrain, almost twice the height of the current stick.

Speaking of VERMONT, a new station is testing in the Rutland area. WEXP Brandon has been playing tracks off a disco CD to check the range of its new transmitter on Grandpa’s Knob in Castleton. According to the Rutland Herald, WEXP founders Michael Carr, Gary Savoie and Timothy Hoehn had been trying since 1989 to get the station on the air, but ran into a series of problems with transmitter siting. The solution turned out to involve Jeff Shapiro’s Dynacom Broadcasting (and yes, his first name is Jeff, not Bruce — our goof last week!) and its application for a site change for Marlboro’s WSSH (101.5). WSSH was willing to withdraw that application, allowing WEXP to locate its tower on the existing Grandpa’s Knob public broadcasting site…but only on the condition that WEXP’s permittee, Mirkwood Broadcast Partners, sell the CP to Dynacom, which is in turn being sold to Vox Media.

So what will the new WEXP program? The calls came from the former 105.1 Plattsburgh NY, which served Burlington with nifty local AAA until Hall bought it and turned it into oldies WKOL a few years ago. Will they remain? Somehow, we see another “Wish FM” repeater on the horizon instead.

The buzz in MASSACHUSETTS is over Greater Media’s decision on where Don Imus, and an FM talk format, will land. The answer, as of August 23, is WSJZ (96.9), which will continue running its current smooth-jazz format outside morning drive for a few more weeks until it completes its metamorphosis into “FM Talk 96.9.”

The station’s other star talker will be former Boston Globe scribe Mike Barnicle, with others sure to be announced as new PD Paula O’Connor (best remembered among her many gigs in Boston as Jerry Williams’ WRKO producer) settles in. Smooth jazz PD Shirley Maldonado exits WSJZ in the meantime.

NERW’s take: This is where the rumors hit the road. We’ve been hearing about the possibility of an FM talker in the market for the better part of the decade. It’s a pretty safe bet that if WSJZ (or whatever the new calls turn out to be) flops in the attempt, nobody else will try. Does a city that already has 24-hour talk on WRKO, sports talk on WEEI, nighttime talk on WBZ, and satellite talk on countless suburban outlets NEED another talker? This ought to be the test…and we can’t wait for that Fall book. And by the way, while some may not think of Greater Media as a force in the talk radio field, keep in mind that Greater was the company that turned KLSX in Los Angeles into the first successful major-market FM talker before trading the station away to CBS…

New calls arrived at Pax TV’s area outlets last Saturday (August 7), with WBPX replacing WABU at Channel 68 in Boston, WDPX replacing WZBU at Channel 58 Vineyard Haven, and WPXG replacing WNBU at Channel 21 in Concord, NH — just in time for Lowell Paxson’s announcement that he’s taking bids on the entire network, which seems perfect fodder for someone’s TV duopoly plans.

Another correction from last issue: The former WRKO talker who’s joined the Webcaster “eYada.com” is Lori Kramer, not her ex-partner Leslie Gold (which makes sense, really — shouldn’t a “station” named after a Seinfeld episode have a host named “Kramer”?). Gold, meanwhile, is headed down to New York as well, to join the staff of Infinity’s WNEW (102.7). Her producer at the talker-to-be will be Paul Bryan, better known as “Butchie” of WRKO, who’s leaving the Entercom station just after it resolved the AFTRA dispute that kept him and other producers from appearing on the air.

We’ll start our tour of NEW YORK this week in Albany, where two stations are getting new call letters. WABY-FM (94.5 Ravena) is dropping its ABC-delivered soft AC format to become WKLI, “K-Lite,” a nickname that should be familiar to the Capital District audience. As “K-Lite,” WKLI on 100.9 played adult contemporary music in the mid-90s before getting a bit harder-edged as “K100” (hot AC) and now “The Point” (modern AC). Now “The Point” is getting new calls as well — WCPT. The heritage WABY calls stay in the market on Albany’s AM 1400, with an all-news format. Who really benefits from all this call-and-format flip-flop? Our money’s on crosstown AC competitor WYJB (95.5)…

In Syracuse, Clear Channel is buying again in the Salt City. Fresh from its recent trade with Cox that netted it WSYR (570), WHEN (620), WYYY (94.5), WBBS (104.7 Fulton), and WWHT (107.9), Lowry Mays’ company will pay a reported $3 million for Butch Charles’ smooth jazz WHCD (106.9 Auburn). Earlier in the year, Charles’ Salt City Communications agreed to sell the station to Mag Mile Media, which is selling its rights to WHCD to Clear Channel for $500,000 (NERW’s wondering how it can get in on a deal like that!).

WHCD is a rimshotter if ever there was one, with a tower some 25 miles outside Syracuse city limits (and a hard-to-hear translator in Syracuse, along with another one in Ithaca). But it is a killer signal in most of the Finger Lakes region, and there’s the potential for a move-in to bring it closer to the city. Format changes? Probably…and the smart money on any Clear Channel buy these days goes to either “Mix” or Jammin’ Oldies, both of which are already in use at the Clear Channel cluster in nearby Rochester.

5 COMMENTS

  1. So the town of Acton has in an application for 94.9 for an LP FM? If I were them I’d forget about it. I am on WXBJ in Salisbury which an LPFM on 949.9 and we are just being pounded by WHOM. (I suspect they are running over their licensed power but that’s for others to decide.) Remember that a station on Cape Cod, over 250 miles away had to move to 95.1 to escape WHOM’s interference. Unless WJOM is made to power down or move off the Mountain they will continue to be the ONLY viable signal on that frequency anywhere in the Northeast and eastern Canada. That’s why WXBJ is applying to move to 94.1. Good luck to Acton. They will need it.

    • I don’t know how the Acton station is going to be programmed, but I’m guessing it will have a better signal, despite the interference, than little 10-watt WHAB (89.1).

    • Oh, and to respond to your other point: WHOM is a legal super-power class-C. Yes, it has a monster signal — its earliest ancestor was a Boston license. 6288 feet may not sound like much to our western friends, but it’s taller than anything around it by a good margin. Ernie Boch’s WXTK (94.9 West Yarmouth), as was, used to get creamed by WHOM despite being a full class-B until he managed to move it to 95.1. (Ernie Jr. sold the station some years ago and I forget who owns it now.)

      • WXTK is part of the Qantum group that’s on its way to Clear Channel. And while I’m sure Acton will have some issues on 94.9, it’s a little more terrain-shielded from WHOM than WXBJ-LP is. It won’t be a great signal, but it will be usable in town.

  2. Also add Entervom-owned WWEI 105.5 (Easthampton, MA) as becoming part of the Boston Bruins Radio Network in the fall, replacing WHLL out in Western Massachusetts.

Comments are closed.