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?
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.)
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.
So 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.
*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.)
KVNV 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).
*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.
*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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