In this week’s issue… Ambitious local TV news operation launches tonight – NYC TV move-in fights for virtual channel – Clear Channel Rochester gambles on Kimberly and Beck – Connoisseur closes on WALK – Kennedy can’t speak – PA radio sale is all in the family

By SCOTT FYBUSH

*Few TV broadcasters enjoy the sort of lucrative near-monopoly that Hearst’s WMUR-TV (Channel 9) has long possessed in NEW HAMPSHIRE. In a growing state that’s often one of the hottest political markets in the country, the ABC affiliate’s local news operation makes it a magnet for the big windfall of political advertising that comes around every few years. And as of tonight, WMUR will face the most serious competition it’s ever seen.

WMUR has faced down in-state rivals before: during its brief run as a CBS affiliate in the late 1980s, Concord-based WNHT (Channel 21) had local news, and so did independent WGOT (Channel 60). A longer-running challenge came from another independent, WNDS (Channel 50) in Derry, which took multiple stabs at a local newscast during the 1990s and 2000s, launching the quirky career of weather guy Al Kaprielian but otherwise making little impact on the Granite State’s news habits.

Channel 50 tries again tonight, but this time Kaprielian is the only remaining ingredient from its prior attempts. Rebranded as WBIN by new owner Bill Binnie, the station doesn’t even brand itself as “channel 50” anymore, instead using the channel 18 slot it enjoys on Comcast cable across a big swath of the Boston market – and the news brand it kicks off tonight will be “New Hampshire 1,” a brand it shares with the newscasts on Binnie’s big cluster of radio stations in southern and central New Hampshire.

What makes this attempt more likely to succeed than all of the previous challenges to WMUR’s dominance, including Binnie’s own short-lived WBIN newscast a couple of years ago, which was produced out of INN in Iowa?

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Money, of course, which is something Binnie has in abundance. And the word from behind the scenes is that he’s been spending lavishly to make the new “NH 1 News” a serious rival to WMUR. On the facilities front, while WBIN’s master control remains at the old WNDS studios in Derry, the newsroom and its control room are at Binnie’s new media center in an extensively-renovated former school building in Concord. News director Robb Atkinson came to WBIN from CNN Newsource, and he’s bringing veteran CNN political editor Paul Steinhausen on board as anchor, leading a newsroom team of more than 50 people. (Other recent prominent hires include former Nashua Telegraph statehouse reporter Kevin Landrigan, who’ll be chief political correspondent for NH1.)

NH1's control room
NH1’s control room (photo: Rick Zach/WBIN)

Rehearsing for the NH1 newscast (photo: Rick Zach/WBIN)
Rehearsing for the NH1 newscast (photo: Rick Zach/WBIN)

At least initially, NH1’s TV offerings will be strictly weekday evenings: it launches tonight with shows at 5, 5:30, 6 and 10 PM and no newscasts in the morning or on weekends. That will change next year, when a local morning show and midday newscast are planned, just in time for the massive influx of political advertising and national attention that will descend on the Granite State ahead of the 2016 presidential race.

Will WBIN and NH1 make a dent in New Hampshirites’ long habit of going straight to channel 9 for local news? If anyone has the finances and the patience to make inroads on WMUR, Binnie’s the man – and we’ll be watching closely as he ramps up his programming, his digital presence and his promotions.

*There’s another bit of new programming coming to the Granite State airwaves today: former WEEI host Glenn Ordway has been streaming his “Big Show Unfiltered” for a few months now, and starting today it will be heard for two hours daily on WGAM (1250 Manchester)/WGHM (900 Nashua).

*Much of the week’s other big news came right here in our own back yard in upstate NEW YORK, where Clear Channel’s Rochester cluster moved with unusual speed to blunt the publicity bonus Entercom was hoping to reap from its shift of veteran WPXY (97.9) morning hosts Scott Spezzano and Sandy Waters to older-skewing WBZA (98.9).

Clear Channel’s moves, announced in a quick barrage on Thursday morning, were as clear an example as we get to see these days of cluster strategy in action. On the rock front, Entercom was hoping that the addition of the well-loved, uncontroversial Spezzano to “98.9 the Buzz” would give the female-skewing rock signal the first good publicity it’s had since former morning hosts Kimberly Ray and Barry Beck were ousted in May amidst a series of controversies that included comments about the city’s insurance coverage for gender-reassignment surgery and, more quietly, reported problems with on-air criticism of big-ticket advertisers.

wqbw-radio951So just as Entercom was preparing to relaunch WBZA with a far less controversial morning presence, who walked into the Clear Channel studios of WQBW (95.1 Honeoye Falls) morning institution Brother Wease (himself an Entercom transplant) just before 10 on Thursday morning? Kimberly and Beck, of course, making the surprise announcement that they had joined Clear Channel to host afternoons on 95.1 – which, by the way, was rebranding right there and then as “Radio 95.1,” ditching the “Brew” moniker it had been using for the last few years and swapping out more of its classic rock for newer rock, at least during the hours it’s not talk-heavy with Wease or Kimberly and Beck. (Clear Channel is also plugging Kimberly and Beck into an evening hour on its news-talk WHAM 1180, where they’ll be heard nightly from 8-9 PM, replacing a stray hour of delayed Sean Hannity.

But wait – there’s more! Hot on the heels of using its “Bull” country brand to shave some ratings from top-rated competitors in Boston and elsewhere, Clear Channel took its oft-flipped 107.3 South Bristol rimshot signal and spun it once again at noon on Thursday. Out is “Oldies 107.3” WODX, which never made much of a dent in independently-run WLGZ (102.7 Webster); in is “107.3 the Bull,” with new calls WNBL on the way, aimed at Entercom’s top-rated country veteran WBEE (92.5). With a signal that’s barely audible in most of the market, the new Rochester-adjacent “Bull” probably won’t do much damage to WBEE, but it’s trotting out all the usual “Bull” playbook anyway, with a commercial-free stretch that will lead into the Bobby Bones morning show later this fall. (Yankees baseball coverage has apparently disappeared from 107.3 for what’s left of the season, too; it’s not clear yet where the team will be on the radio here next year.)

And just as Entercom’s 98PXY prepares to roll out its new “#teampxy” morning show with Megan Carter and Corey James (returning to PXY from WVHT in Virginia), Clear Channel had some news at its top-40 rival, “Kiss” WKGS (106.7 Irondequoit), where it poached afternoon jock Raphael (Opida) after seven years at PXY. In his new 4-7 PM shift at WKGS, Raph displaces Pauly.

*So what does it all mean? The local headlines focused heavily on the return of Kimberly and Beck to the airwaves, but in radio-land that was probably a near inevitability – while they certainly drew plenty of controversy on the Buzz, they also drew ratings, and for a station like 95.1 that’s been little more than a jukebox outside of Wease’s hours, any attention is good attention. The bigger question is whether Clear Channel has bigger plans for Kimberly and Beck: Wease is by far the highest-paid talent on Rochester radio, and unless we missed a quiet extension, it appears his Clear Channel contract is up for renewal this winter. If Clear Channel has Kimberly and Beck (and former WCMF’er Bill Moran, now on Clear’s WDVI 100.5) in the wings, can Wease successfully push for a renewal at anything like the money he’s now getting. Interesting times ahead…

*Downstate, it didn’t take long for former WBLI (106.1 Patchogue) jock Astra to announce her new home: she’s Manhattan-bound as the first newly-announced on-air talent at CBS Radio’s “AMP” WBMP (92.3 New York), where she’ll be doing afternoons. Will AMP announce a new morning show soon, too?

Downstairs at 345 Hudson Street, they’re celebrating a Legendary Station of the Year Marconi Award for WFAN (660/101.9). We didn’t make it to Indianapolis and the Radio Show for the awards this year (if you don’t already know why, you can read more here), but we send hearty congratulations to the other NERW-land Marconi winners, too: WBEB (101.1 Philadelphia) was AC Station of the Year, WOGL (98.1 Philadelphia) was Oldies Station of the Year, WBZ-FM (98.5 Boston) was Sports Station of the Year – and perhaps most meaningfully, Hofstra’s WRHU (88.7 Hempstead) was College Station of the Year.

whli-walk*While we’re out on Long Island, Connoisseur and Clear Channel closed on their swap that sent WALK-FM (97.5 Patchogue) and WALK (1370 Patchogue) from the Aloha Trust into Connoisseur’s hands. The new cluster now has AC dominance of the island, with WALK-FM in eastern Long Island joining Connoisseur’s WKJY (98.3 Hempstead) to the west, as well as rock “Shark” WWSK (94.3 Smithtown) and classic hits WBZO (103.1 Bay Shore). On the AM side, Connoisseur moved quickly to turn soft AC/oldies WALK (1370) into an eastern simulcast of its standards/soft AC WHLI (1100 Hempstead) to the west.

*New York City’s (beg pardon, “Middletown Township, NEW JERSEY‘s” newest TV station could hit the air this week – but before KVNV (Channel 3) can sign on from its new transmitter site atop Four Times Square, it needs a virtual channel number on which to operate. And that question will remain up in the air for a while longer, if the FCC has its way. As NERW reported over the summer, KVNV’s plan to continue using virtual channel 3 when its license relocates from Ely, Nevada to “Middletown Township” is being challenged, both by cable companies that don’t want to have to place the station in a prominent spot on channel 3 and by Meredith’s WFSB (Channel 3/RF 33) up in Hartford, which doesn’t want the confusion that a new “channel 3” would potentially create in Fairfield County, CONNECTICUT, where the New York-market KVNV could bump WFSB’s Fairfield-specific feed from Cablevision’s systems there. (Meredith wanted to put KVNV on virtual channel 33, the RF channel number shared by WFSB and New York’s WCBS-TV.)

pmcmKVNV owner PMCM, LLC made its case for “channel 3” very forcefully in a filing to the FCC just before Labor Day. PMCM argues that by delaying its decisions about a virtual channel number and thus about cable channel positions, the FCC is effectively preventing the new station from signing on in any way that will reach a substantial audience. PMCM rejected one option offered by the FCC, which would have put KVNV on virtual channel 14.x, otherwise unused in the New York market (because that, after all, isn’t the “VHF channel for New Jersey” that was at the crux of the legal maneuver Bob McAllen’s company used to bring KVNV and its sister station, Philadelphia-market KJWP 2, across the country). Its latest proposal asks the FCC to designate KVNV’s virtual channels as 3.10 and upward, reserving 3.1 through 3.9 exclusively for WFSB. On cable, PMCM argues, that would still entitle it to channel 3 within the New York market (even in Fairfield County, where it’s nevertheless willing to yield up that channel if it keeps WFSB happy).

Now the FCC has opened a comment period, ending October 14, to seek opinions on that proposal – and in the meantime, it’s not clear what virtual channel KVNV will use if it tries to sign on before that process is concluded.

On Mount Beacon overlooking the Hudson Valley, Juergen Klebe’s Sunrise Broadcasting wants to boost the power of the translator it’s buying. W233BM (94.5 Beacon) has been running 7 watts as a relay of WFUV (90.7 New York), but it’s applying for a boost to 60 watts in its new role as a fill-in, relaying an HD subchannel of WJGK (103.1 Newburgh). We still don’t know how much Sunrise is paying for the translator; its asset purchase agreement remains in “accepted for filing” status at the FCC, where Sunrise is attempting to redact the purchase price from public view, something the Commission usually doesn’t allow.

*Back upstate, Paige Christian’s Sound Communications group has closed on its purchase of Robert Pfuntner’s Pembrook Pines stations in Olean and Salamanca. The $275,000 deal, filed back in February, makes the stations – WOEN (1360 Olean), WMXO (101.5 Olean), WGGO (1590 Salamanca) and WQRS (98.3 Salamanca) – sisters to Sound’s Corning-based cluster to the east, which includes news-talk WENY (1230 Elmira)/WENI (1450 Corning), AC WENY-FM (92.7 Elmira)/WENI-FM (97.7 Big Flats), oldies WGMM (98.7 Corning) and country WKPQ (105.3 Hornell). The sale takes the Olean and Salamanca stations away from their long bond to the Pembrook Pines signals in Elmira, which means a format change is likely at WOEN and WGGO, which have been simulcasting oldies with WEHH (1600 Elmira Heights-Horseheads); the Elmira cluster is headed to a new company owned by tower owner/engineer Gordy Ishikawa.

There’s a new translator on the air in Oneida, west of Utica: W279CK (103.7 Durhamville) relays WMVN (100.3 Sylvan Beach).

*It was a big week for low-power FM applicants from all over the region, as the FCC opened a window for major change applications and settlement agreements among applicants who ended up in mutually-exclusive (MX) groups after the recent filing window. In New York, that included frequency changes for two Rochester applicants who’d applied for 97.1: Rochester Community TV wants to shift to 100.9, while New Day Global Mission would go to 98.5, leaving the Ibero American Action League alone at 97.1. (Our friends at REC Networks are keeping track of the entire window here.)

On Long Island, By Faith Ministries Association has had its application for an LPFM on 104.7 dismissed.

*In MASSACHUSETTS, our best wishes go out to WBMX (104.1 Boston) morning co-host Kennedy, who’s living a radio personality’s worst nightmare. On doctor’s orders to rest her voice after straining a vocal cord, she’s off the air – and not speaking to anyone, at all – for four to six weeks.

The LPFM change window finds several Bay State applicants seeking shifts: in Holyoke, Word of Life Church of God applies to move from 102.5 to 107.7, while in Lynn, Iglesia Christiana Torrente de Cedron would go from 94.9 to 89.3.

Out west, those Brian Dodge-affiliated LPFMs we told you about over the summer all applied for callsigns at the same time last week: mark down WDOE-LP for 97.7 in Westhampton, WHIL-LP for 99.7 Norwich Hill, WHUT-LP for 104.7 Huntington, WTTT-LP for 103.1 Amherst and WTTV-LP for 103.1 Goshen.

*More LPFM applications from around New England: in Manchester, New Hampshire, Manchester Public TV Service applies to move from 95.1 to 101.7, while St. Joseph Catholic Family Center wants to go from 105.1 to 101.7 as well. In nearby Candia, New Hampshire Community Radio wants to shift its application from 95.1 to 94.9. In Biddeford, Maine, the Fifties Preservation Society wants to go from 104.1 to 102.5, relocating to the Portland suburb of Westbrook along the way, while the Springvale Council Knights of Columbus would move from 104.1 to 105.7.

In Connecticut, Bloomfield’s Connecticut Valley Hispanic Outreach would shift from 107.5 to 98.7, La Nueva Radio Restauracion AM 1620 Inc. in New Britain would go from 103.5 to 96.9, Cromwell’s Society of the Missionaries of the Holy Apostles would shift from 103.3 to 104.5, South Windsor’s Spiritual Renewal Center from 103.3 to 101.7, and the town of Enfield from 101.7 to 94.3. In New Haven, Alma Radio would move from 97.1 to 107.5

In Burlington, VERMONT, St. Francis Parish wants to move its 99.3 application to 105.5.

*A quiet week in the mid-Atlantic states started with a mystery in Atlantic City, NEW JERSEY, where half of the morning show at WAYV (95.1) is gone. What happened to Mike Richman of the Mike and Diane Show? On the station’s Facebook page, it says he “voluntarily resigned,” but commenters believe there’s more going on behind the scenes, and WAYV is now advertising for a replacement.

There’s one new translator CP on the Jersey Shore, where Priority Radio has been granted a new 103.1 in Atlantic City, to relay WVBH (88.3 Beach Haven West).

wzww*In PENNSYLVANIA, First Media LLC is selling its stations in the State College-Bellefonte market and in nearby Lewistown as well, and the buyer is well connected in local media. Seven Mountains Media, which is paying $2.075 million for the four FMs and one AM, is headed by Kristin Cantrell, who just happens to be the daughter of Kerby Confer, head of Forever Broadcasting, the dominant radio owner in State College.

In State College, Seven Mountains gets top-rated AC “3WZ” WZWW (95.3 Bellefonte), along with hot AC “Merf” WMRF (95.7 Lewistown)/WLAK (103.5 Huntingdon) and news-talk WIEZ (670 Lewistown) to the east. Will that be Seven Mountains’ last acquisition in town, or are more purchases along the I-99 corridor in the offing? (First Media, meanwhile, is left with only its Du Bois/Clearfield cluster in the Keystone State.)

*In Pittsburgh, Clear Channel has named more air talent for its “Big” country WPGB (104.7): Carson is headed north from WDCG in Raleigh to do middays, while nights will be tracked by Brody from Clear’s WFLZ in Tampa. PD JD Greene completes the trio with his afternoon show, which also starts today.

Two LPFM applicants filed for moves last week at opposite corners of the state: Hand Up Inc. wants to go from 107.9 to 95.3 in Girard, near Erie, while in Horsham, Montgomery County shifts its 98.5 application to 92.1.

cklx-radio9*While regulators in CANADA continue to plow through their lengthy hearings on the future of broadcast TV, it was a relatively uneventful week in radio – except, perhaps, in Montreal. That’s where RNC’s CKLX (91.9) unveiled its new lineup after receiving CRTC permission to swap music for talk. The station formerly known as “Planete Jazz” and more recently as “Radio X” rebranded itself “Radio 9” on, fittingly enough, 9/9, and our friend Steve Faguy has all the details on its new schedule.

Faguy also brings late word of a station sale in the Montreal suburbs: troubled CJMS (1040 St.-Constant) almost lost its license, but it’s being saved with a $15,000 sale to CPAM Radio Union, which also owns CJWI (1410 Montreal). The Haitian broadcaster shares CJMS’ tower site south of Montreal, and it’s already simulcasting some of its programming on 1040, which is otherwise a country station.

In the Toronto suburbs, the CRTC gave J. Elliott Kerr permission to drop power on his as-yet-unbuilt CKNT (960 Mississauga). Instead of 2000 watts day/180 watts night, Kerr’s news-talker would drop to 700 watts day/104 watts night from a different site, still non-directional.

And in Halifax, City Church Halifax wants more power at its religious CIRP (94.7 Spryfield-Halifax). It’s applying to go from its present 50 watts/22.1 m, non-directional, to 452 watts average/700 watts max DA/25.1 m.

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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.

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2015FybushCal_reader_1_fullcover2 More than half a million impressions from one calendar? How is that possible?

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3. Magazines usually don’t get read more than once. Calendars are looked at between four and eight times each day. (Promotional Products Association International; Advertising Specialty Institute)

 

Plus, people don’t usually walk into someone’s office, pick up a magazine and start to read it. But they do walk into someone’s office and see a calendar hanging there.

Let’s do the math: four impressions or views a day (conservatively), five days in a work week (at minimum), 260 work days per year. That’s just over 1,000 impressions per year. We sell around 600 calendars each year. That’s 600,000 total impressions for the year!

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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, 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: September 16, 2013

We’re halfway to a resolution of one of the longest-running questions in NEW YORK radio: where will the Mets and Yankees end up?

For the team in pinstripes struggling to secure a wild-card berth, there’s now a solid long-term home in place after many years of one-season renewals. When the Yankees take the field to start the 2014 season, they’ll remain with their longtime broadcast partner, CBS Radio, but instead of being heard on WCBS (880), their radio home since 2002, the Yankees will air on WFAN (660) and WFAN-FM (101.9) in what’s being reported as a $15 million a year deal.

wfan-yankeesFor both the team and CBS, the move makes all the sense in the world. Whatever their recent woes on the field, the Yankees are still the most prestigious franchise in baseball (as even this Sox fan can grudgingly admit), making them a natural fit with what’s arguably the most prestigious sports radio brand in the country.

As the Yankees’ aging roster attests, this is a team that’s committed to stability, so it’s in the team’s DNA to stay with CBS after the success both sides of the relationship have enjoyed these last dozen seasons.  The long-term deal may also demonstrate the wisdom of what seemed at first to be a counter-intuitive move on CBS’ part: after buying the former WEMP (101.9) and flipping it to WFAN-FM, many (this page included) believed it was only a matter of time before WFAN became FM-only and the national CBS Sports Radio feed replaced local sports at 660 AM,  a belief that now appears to have been misguided.

*It’s convention time all over the radio landscape, and whenever we can, NERW’s on the scene to bring you coverage. Alas, we couldn’t make it to Amsterdam for the big international IBC convention, nor will we be in Florida for the Radio Show. But those annual conventions aren’t quite as special, somehow, as the Binghamton Broadcasters Reunion that takes place only once every two years.

Saturday night was that once-every-two-years moment, and Ray Ross and his crew outdid themselves this year with an event that drew more than 200 current and former Binghamton radio and TV folks to the Doubletree Hotel downtown.

Each biennial edition of the reunion adds new names to a growing roster of award recipients: this year, the honorees included WNBF (1290) salesperson/weekend polka host Barb Mack, who accepted her Broadcaster of the Year award with nods to both her “radio family” filling the room and her real family, including her late father, Bill, who originated the polka show and died in 2002. (Mack was introduced by her WNBF colleague Roger Neel, himself a past “Broadcaster of the Year” honoree. Dana Potter, midday host at WLTB (101.7 Johnson City), was recognized as a “Living Legend” for his many years on the air in town, going back to 1978 at WENE/WMRV (and before that at an Explorer post sponsored by WNBF!)

*One of the most respected broadcasters on Long Island has died.

ellsworth-bookJack Ellsworth was born Ellsworth Shiebler, but in the early years of his career in the 1940s he took the radio name he’d use for the rest of his long career as he moved around from Rhode Island to New Jersey’s WVNJ to Long Island. First at WGSM (740 Huntington) and then in 1951 at WALK (1370 Patchogue), Ellsworth became a fixture on the dial, eventually becoming WALK’s station manager and then president and CEO.

After 30 years at WALK, Ellsworth and his wife Dot moved into radio ownership, taking over WLIM (1580 Patchogue) and transforming it into an on-air home for Ellsworth’s beloved big band music. The Ellsworths sold WLIM in 2001 and Jack returned to WALK, where he was hosting a mid-morning show until his health took a turn for the worse after Dot’s death in July.

Ellsworth, who’d just published his memoirs, “Memories in Melody,” did his last show on WALK August 1, and he died Thursday of renal failure, at age 91, leaving a void among the many radio professionals he’d supported and trained over the decades.

*In MAINE, Blueberry Broadcasting has pulled the plug on another of its AM signals. WAEI (910 Bangor) is the former WABI radio, with a history that goes back to 1924 and making it the Pine Tree State’s oldest surviving radio license. After many decades as an important part of the Bangor radio scene, WAEI has struggled in recent years. Its signature voice, veteran morning man George Hale, moved to the FM dial when Blueberry made WVOM-FM (103.9 Howland) its primary talk station in the market in 2008, leaving 910 as a sports outlet, most recently with CBS Sports Radio.

Five Years Ago: September 14, 2009

Just a month after the eastern MASSACHUSETTS sports radio world was transformed by CBS Radio’s launch of WBZ-FM as “Sports Hub 98.5,” there’s another big transformation coming. The details are still a little murky as this issue of NERW heads for the “send” button late Sunday night, but here’s what we know so far: as of Monday morning, ESPN Radio’s national programming will be gone from WAMG (890 Dedham)/WLLH (1400 Lowell & Lawrence), the pair of relatively weak signals that have been struggling to find a niche as “ESPN Boston” since 2005. The local hosts on WAMG/WLLH offered up farewell shows on Friday, as station owner Waller Sutton prepared to pull the plug on the sports format at 890 and 1400 and flip to something new today.

Down on the South Coast, they’re mourning a morning talent who died far too young. Sharon Fogaren, co-host of the “JR and Sharon” show on WFHN (107.1 Fairhaven), suffered a heart attack on August 20 and died Sept. 2 at a Boston hospital. Fogaren had been with Fun 107 “off and on for 14 years,” the station reports. She was just 43; for now, JR is hosting the show solo.

One more Bay State note: the WBCN call letters that long signified progressive rock in Boston now stand for conservative talk in Charlotte. CBS Radio parked the callsign on the former WFNA (1660 Charlotte) as part of the August shuffle that moved “Mix” WBMX from 98.5 to 104.1 (with its own very brief detour to that 1660 facility) – and now it has flipped the Charlotte WBCN from sports-talk to satellite-fed conservative talk.

NEW YORK City’s classical music listeners now know the date and time that their commercial classical station will cease to exist, before being reborn up the dial (and lower in power) in noncommercial form. The transition of WQXR from 96.3 to 105.9 will happen at 8 PM on October 8, when the 96.3 frequency will transfer from its longtime owner, the New York Times Co., to Univision Radio. Univision’s WCAA (105.9 Newark NJ) will transfer its “La Kalle” format down the dial to 96.3, and the WQXR calls and 105.9 facility will come together under public broadcaster WNYC, which will launch its new version of WQXR with a live Orpheus Chamber Orchestra concert that will be simulcast on WNYC-FM (93.9) and on a new website at wqxr.org.

Moving upstate, the changes in the Syracuse radio dial that we told you about in our last issue two weeks ago turned out to be just the start of a chaotic time in the Salt (or “Emerald,” if you really insist) City. Clear Channel’s feint toward a country roadblock turned out to be short-lived, as “Young Country 106.9” (WPHR) lasted just a weekend before returning to its previous format, urban “Power 106.9.” It’s still not clear whether “Young Country” was intended to be merely a stunt to rattle new country competitor WOLF-FM (105.1 DeRuyter), or whether Clear Channel was itself rattled by the protests that developed when it looked like Syracuse was about to lose its only station focused on the city’s black audience.

As it turns out, that audience is now getting a stronger signal from “Power,” since the “Young Country” shuffle coincided with WPHR’s move from Auburn to a new city of license, the Syracuse suburb of Solvay, and to a new transmitter site on the Onondaga Community College campus in the hills south of the city. WPHR took a drop in power – from class B to B1 – to make the move, but it also ended up much closer to the core of the Syracuse market.

Here in Rochester, Clear Channel’s latest flip to its oft-changing rimshot signal on 107.3 took place at midnight on Sept. 9, when the former “Country 107.3” (WROO South Bristol Township) became WHTK-FM, simulcasting the sports-talk format of Clear Channel’s WHTK (1280 Rochester).

With the new simulcast comes a schedule change for WHTK: the local sports talk show hosted by John DiTullio moves from late mornings to 3-6 PM, clearing the way for live carriage of Dan Patrick’s 9 AM-noon show and putting DiTullio up against the “local” show on the market’s other sports-talker, Entercom’s WROC (950). We put “local” in quotes here only because the WROC show, “Schopp and the Bulldog,” is actually a simulcast from sister station WGR (550 Buffalo), though the distinction scarcely matters for most western New York sports topics, especially during Bills season.

The week’s big news out of PENNSYLVANIA centered on Pittsburgh, where the end of urban radio on WAMO came abruptly around 6 PM last Tuesday (Sept. 8), as Sheridan pulled the plug on both WAMO-FM (106.7 Beaver Falls) and WAMO (860 Millvale), signing off the FM with the Jackson 5’s “Never Can Say Goodbye” and Boyz II Men’s “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye.” Those two stations, as well as sister station WPGR (1510 Monroeville), are now silent as they await the launch of Catholic formats under new owner St. Joseph Missions, which paid just over $8 million for the trio.

State College didn’t have to spend very long without its “QWIK Rock.” The rock format disappeared from its second incarnation, on the former WQWK (103.1 State College), back in August, when Forever Broadcasting flipped that facility to news-talk as WRSC-FM. Over Labor Day, “QWIK Rock” returned, up the dial and under different ownership, on Magnum Broadcasting’s former “Joe FM,” WJOW (105.9 Phillipsburg)/WZYY (106.9 Renovo). “Joe” had already been mixing rock with its country format, though that rock-country hybrid doesn’t seem to be finding much success anywhere it’s been tried. There’s no word yet on a jock lineup for this latest version of “QWIK Rock.”

Ten Years Ago: September 13, 2004

Nassau has been a busy purchaser of radio stations all across New England in the last year or so, and now the New Jersey-based broadcaster is going as far north as it’s possible to get in VERMONT, paying Northstar Media $2.3 million to acquire WMOO (92.1 Derby Center) and WIKE (1490 Newport), a pair of stations way up there at the Canadian border where I-93 heads into Quebec. WMOO, which also has a translator in St. Johnsbury at 99.3, has been doing hot AC (and won some national headlines a few weekends ago when it was taken over by Phish to become their official broadcaster, “the Bunny,” during the band’s final concert nearby); WIKE does country – and all from a building painted in black-and-white cow spots. Really.

The Air America juggernaut is reportedly on its way to MASSACHUSETTS. After a rough start earlier this year, the left-leaning talk network has found a powerful ally in Clear Channel, which has put Air America programming on the air in the last few weeks in markets from San Diego to Madison to Ann Arbor. Now the Boston Herald reports that Clear Channel is about to clear Air America on its two Boston-market AMs, WKOX (1200 Framingham) and WXKS (1430 Everett), replacing leased-time Spanish religion and mostly-satellite standards, respectively. While neither signal has full-market coverage (despite WKOX’s long-standing CP for a move to Newton that’s being blocked by NIMBY locals), the combination of the two hits most of the core of the market during daylight hours, at least. If other Clear Channel/Air America markets are any indication, it’s a pretty good bet that programming will also include syndicated offerings from Ed Schultz as well as Air America’s Randi Rhodes and Al Franken.

There’s a big morning opening in NEW YORK, as WCBS-FM (101.1 New York) drops Dan Taylor off morning drive and puts out the call for tapes and resumes. Taylor took over from Harry Harrison about a year and a half ago, in the midst of some pretty big managerial and programming shakeups at the not-quite-oldies-anymore station; he’s still on CBS-FM’s website for now, but we suspect the veteran of great stations like WHN (where he was the very last voice on the air) will move on to something else sooner or later.

Fifteen Years Ago: September 17, 1999

We’re back from vacation, only to find yet another media mega-deal awaiting us: the CBS-Viacom merger, undoing the 1970 spin-off that created Viacom in the first place.

From our narrow Northeast broadcasting perspective, this has just one immediate effect: assuming all the appropriate regulatory approvals, it creates Boston’s first TV duopoly, pairing CBS’ WBZ (Ch. 4) with Viacom’s WSBK (Channel 38, and its Providence LMA, WLWC 28 New Bedford). The rumors are already aswirl about what a duopolized channel 38 could look like, especially if (as expected), CBS/Viacom is forced to spin off the UPN network. Could the market see a return of “WBZ News 4 on TV 38”? (And what of Detroit, where CBS’s WWJ-TV has no news department, but Viacom’s WKBD is the company’s only station that still has nightly news?)

We’ll start off the rest of the news of the past two weeks in CONNECTICUT, where Cox is adding to its station lineup in the Fairfield County area as part of a multi-station trade with AMFM. The big prize in this deal is Los Angeles combo KFI (640)/KOST (103.5), which go to AMFM in exchange for a grab-bag of AMFM properties around the country. In addition to Atlanta’s WFOX (97.1 Gainesville), Miami’s WEDR (99.1), and a cluster in Jacksonville, Cox gets WEFX (95.9 Norwalk), WKHL (96.7 Stamford), WPLR (99.1 New Haven), the sales rights to WYBC-FM (94.3 New Haven), and news-talk simulcasters WSTC (1400 Stamford) and WNLK (1350 Norwalk) to add to its “Star 99.9” WEZN Bridgeport.

In MASSACHUSETTS, “FM Talk 96.9” is finding its legs on (mumble it quickly now, 10 dB under the music bed!) WSJZ Boston. Local programming kicked off this week with San Diego’s Stacy Taylor following Don Imus at 10AM (along with, at least the first day, CNN network feeds that weren’t properly potted down!), one day’s worth of Mike Barnicle, and former WRKO night guy Jay Severin, among others. It’s now sounding as though Taylor, anyway, is only a temporary host, and we suspect we’ll have more programming changes to talk about soon as 96.9 settles in.

Established talker WRKO (680) isn’t taking all this lying down — it’s bolstering its local identity by dropping Metro Networks news service to return to in-house news, led by market veteran Rod Fritz. He’s coming back from exile in the land of PR to head up a morning news block to replace the Jeff Katz/Darlene McCarthy show. We also hear Andy Moes and Lori Kramer will have roles to play in ‘RKO’s latest reincarnation.

Up in NEW HAMPSHIRE, Manchester’s WKBR (1250) is getting yet another new identity, dropping One-on-One Sports to go country. Most of the day will come from ABC’s “Real Country,” but we hear Sean Sullivan from WYRY (104.9 Hinsdale) is joining the station to do mornings and serve as station manager. We hear WKBR will continue to originate from the studios of WXRV over in Haverhill, Mass. — and we wouldn’t be one bit surprised to hear “K-Bear 1250” as the non-ID.

A station sale tops VERMONT news this week, with Excalibur Media adding WCVR (102.1) and WWWT (1320) in Randolph to its existing group of WZRT (97.1)/WSYB (1380) Rutland and WXNT (92.1) Port Henry NY. Under current owners Ed and Margaret Stokes, the stations had been running ABC’s Real Country format.

Tons of news from NEW YORK over the last two weeks, and we’ll tackle it from west to east, starting in Buffalo. That’s where Mercury Communications is paying $535,000 to add WHLD (1270 Niagara Falls) to its station group (which includes ethnic WMNY, rock WGRF, modern rock WEDG, and oldies WHTT). Observant readers will recall that WHLD holds a CP to move from Grand Island to the WNED (970) site south of Buffalo, pumping a directional signal right over the heart of the city, and we’ll be not one bit surprised to see some of the leased-time programming now on WMNY move to the stronger signal.

In Rochester, some big changes are in the works at CBS’s cluster, as John MacCrae moves down the Thruway from Syracuse’s WAQX (95.7 Manlius) to take over PD reins at WCMF (96.5). He replaces Rick MacKenzie, who stays on the 17th floor but focuses on modern AC WZNE (94.1). The first step in breathing some life into the Zone? A new morning team — and one that Boston listeners would recognize. After a brief interlude in Connecticut, Karlson and McKenzie (NOT Rick!) began their new Zone gig Thursday morning. First caller? A guy who told them to “shut up and play more music” (!) The duo were last at WEGQ (93.7 Lawrence-Boston), until the “Eagle” folded its wings and became “Star” last spring; the demo CD Zone sent out to local media was made up entirely of bits from the old WEGQ show.

One final note before we go this week: We were saddened to learn of the passing September 1 of Bill Pfeiffer, the creator and moderator of rec.radio.broadcasting/AIRWAVES Radio Journal. It was back in 1991, at the birth of r.r.b., that a college student in Boston began contributing local items to Bill, who always welcomed them with the same respect and professionalism with which he greeted items from “big-time” industry folks like Rich Wood and Mark Howell. As I moved ahead in my career, Bill was always there at the other end of the e-mail, offering advice, humor, and sometimes a dissenting (but always civil) viewpoint. In the last year or so, we crossed ways a bit when it came to distribution of NERW — but always in a friendly fashion, ending with a solution we could both agree upon. We corresponded almost daily for eight years, and though we never met in person, and talked by phone maybe half a dozen times in all those years, the news of Bill’s death in a crash caused by a drunk driver came with as much of a jolt as the loss of a close local friend would have.

Bill was a staunch crusader for local radio, and even though his own career in the field was spotty at best, I’d like to think he inspired a lot of us to strive for the kind of radio he loved best. He died far too young, just a few months shy of his long-awaited marriage, and just three years after the death of his beloved mother following a tragic fire in their home in Missouri. Bill Pfeiffer leaves a void in the on-line radio community that won’t soon be filled. So long, friend…hope there’s a dozen live, local stations on the dial where you are now.