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
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?
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.
Why 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.
*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.”
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 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).
*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.
From 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.
*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.
*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!
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