In this week’s issue… Waiting for action on Disney’s AM signals – NYC TV’s Slattery remembered – Translator action in NJ – CT sports voice retires – Still waiting for new Montreal AMs – Plus: Hockey on the Radio 2014-2015
By SCOTT FYBUSH
*As the sun rises over NERW-land this Monday morning, many in the radio industry expected to hear several fewer signals across the AM dial. Friday was supposed to have been the last day of Radio Disney on its remaining terrestrial signals, including WQEW (1560 New York), WMKI (1260 Boston), WWJZ (640 Mt. Holly NJ/Philadelphia) and WDDZ (1250 Pittsburgh).
But as NERW readers learned in our exclusive report on Friday, a cautious Disney legal team stepped in to change the original corporate plans to take those (and 19 other) signals silent while waiting for buyers to emerge for the stations.
Instead, the Disney AMs will stay on the air in stripped-down form, with no local advertising or promotions and just a handful of local staffers at each location. And with that, a new round of speculation begins: while the cost of transmitter power and a few staffers isn’t much to a company as big as Disney, it’s still an expense the company didn’t expect to have on its balance sheet after the end of September.
We’re told several potential buyers have been “kicking the tires” at some of the Disney AMs around the country; will the Mouse be more eager now to move quickly to get these stations sold, even at more steeply discounted prices, if that means it can end this interim operation sooner? For now, at least, the speculation we offered back when the sale was announced this summer still holds – these aren’t full-market signals, for the most part, and they’ll never be contenders with mainstream formats. Instead, they’re most likely to go to religious, ethnic or other leased-time players, and likely different ones in each market. (We’re talking about some of the possibilities over in the RadioInsight Community – come join us!)
NERW Live! We always enjoy meeting up with NERW readers (and future NERW readers), and we have two events coming up next week that you might enjoy. On Wednesday, October 8, it’s the SBE 22 Expo, the big annual broadcast engineering show held at the Turning Stone Casino & Resort in Verona, between Utica and Syracuse. This year’s Expo is also the SBE’s 50th Anniversary national convention, which makes it even more special.
And then on Thursday, October 9, we’re excited to be hosting a book signing and meet-up with Peter King, the CBS Radio News correspondent and upstate radio veteran who’s just co-authored “Ithaca Radio,” the new book from Arcadia Publishing. In addition to several events in Ithaca, Peter will be here in Rochester from 11:30 AM-1:30 PM to sign books and talk radio at Bill Gray’s, 1650 Penfield Road (corner of Panorama Trail). We hope you can join us!
(And if you can’t make it, we have copies of Peter’s book, our new Tower Site Calendar 2015, and lots of other goodies, too, over at the Fybush.com Store!)
John Slattery was one of the consummate good guys of NEW YORK City TV. Over a long career that included stops at WCAU-TV (Channel 10) in Philadelphia, WABC-TV (Channel 7) from 1979-1984 and then a 30-year run at WCBS-TV (Channel 2), “Slats” covered everything and knew just about everyone – and so it was a tremendous blow to the channel 2 newsroom when he died in his sleep, apparently of a heart attack, on Thursday. Slattery had been at work at channel 2 just a day earlier. He was just 63 years old.
Downtown at WINS (1010), Judy DeAngelis will celebrate her birthday Wednesday as a retiree. Her departure from WINS on Tuesday will end a 26-year run at the all-newser that began when her previous news home, WNBC (660), folded in 1988. Her resume also includes prior stops at WALK (97.5/1370) on Long Island and then at WCBS-FM (101.1); we remember her, too, for her involvement in the Edwin Armstrong memorial broadcasts a few years back. (She was an easy “get” for the broadcast, which aired over WFDU 89.1, the college station where her husband Duff Sheffield is the general manager!)
Over at WEPN-FM (98.7), a schedule shift effective today takes Mike Lupica to a two-hour shift from 1-3 PM, preceded by Ryan Ruocco and Dave Rothenberg at noon. Rothenberg’s move opens up the 7-10 PM shift for Alan Hahn and Rick DiPietro, at least when the Rangers or Knicks aren’t playing. (More on this fall’s NHL radio lineup later in the column…)
More news from Long Island’s newly-consolidated Connoisseur cluster: Tommy Conway moves up from assistant PD/music director to PD now that Connoisseur’s running WALK-FM (97.5 Patchogue), while current WALK PD Patrick Shea moves up to operations director for the entire cluster. Behind the scenes, WALK’s Paul Anthony moves up from local sales manager to co-general sales manager alongside his Connoisseur counterpart, Janine Johns. And while WALK-FM is still broadcasting from its longtime Patchogue home for now, we’re told the work is underway to rework Connoisseur’s Airport Plaza studios so that 97.5 can move in with its erstwhile competitors within the next few weeks.
NBC/Comcast is betting on local news as a winner for its Spanish-language Telemundo stations: it’s adding 5:30 PM news to its existing 6 and 11 PM offerings at WNJU (Channel 47) in New York and WWSI (Channel 62) in Philadelphia, beginning November 3. (WNJU also does local early-morning news.)
Upstate, Bud Williamson has a translator swap in the works in Newburgh: he’ll swap away his W229BH (93.7) to Sound of Life in exchange for W202AR (88.3); the move will better consolidate Bud’s WQCD (88.1 Montgomery) and its translators right at the bottom of the dial.
Way upstate, North Country Public Radio is applying to move W269BR (101.7) from its current home in the Adirondacks hamlet of St. Huberts eastward to the larger burg of Elizabethtown, off I-87. The translator would change frequency to 101.9, but would continue to relay NCPR’s WSLL (90.5 Saranac Lake).
*On TV, there’s a new look for Buffalo’s WKBW-TV (Channel 7) to go along with its new Scripps ownership. The latest iteration of WKBW’s longtime “circle 7” logo is, for the first time, nearly identical to the granddaddy of the “circle 7” logos, the version used by ABC’s owned-and-operated stations. That version of the circle-7 came into Scripps’ hands by way of WXYZ-TV in Detroit, formerly an ABC O&O; WKBW’s new logo and graphics package are nearly identical to the ones WXYZ is using out there at the other end of Lake Erie.
At the other end of upstate New York, Venture Technologies has turned on the digital version of its low-power WEPT-CA (Channel 15) – but with a big move along the way. While the analog version of WEPT, licensed to Kinderhook, operated from a site just south of Albany, WEPT-LD (RF channel 22) is licensed to Newburgh, running 15 kW from Overlook Mountain near Woodstock. At least for now, WEPT is running AMG-TV programming.
*The big news from NEW JERSEY this week is about translators and veteran engineer Ted Schober, who’s now the proud possessor of two shiny new construction permits.
In Jersey City, Schober’s new W248CG (97.5) is on the books as a relay of WFUV (90.7 New York), but with 110 watts from the top of a Newport skyscraper (the same one, in fact, that was the studio home of Clear Channel’s Z100 until just a few years ago), the signal will cover a substantial chunk of not only the Jersey waterfront but also lower Manhattan – and so we’d be not at all surprised to see it get sold to a commercial operator for a hefty sum. (Note that two Chicago translators recently sold for a whopping $1 million and then more than $4 million…)
Down the shore in Manahawkin, Schober’s also been granted a new signal on 95.5, tagged to relay WSJO (104.9 Egg Harbor City). Will Cumulus’ WPLJ (95.5), which puts a respectable fringe signal into Ocean County, object once it’s on the air?
*A veteran CONNECTICUT sportscaster steps down at the end of this week. When Scott Gray joined WTIC (1080 Hartford) back in 1981, he was reading sports scores on Bob Steele’s long-running morning show. Gray outlasted the venerable Steele and has continued to be a morning staple on the CBS Radio news-talker; in addition to his morning sports work, he’s also called UConn women’s basketball, Rock Cats baseball and Hartford Wolf Pack hockey.
*We think of WAMC (90.3 Albany) as being primarily a New York State public radio station – but its transmitter has been on MASSACHUSETTS‘ highest point, Mount Greylock, for many decades, and now Alan Chartock’s “Northeast Public Radio” empire is proposing to make a deeper incursion into New England. It’s applying for a 280-watt on-channel booster that would be licensed to Florence, but WAMC-FM-1 would strengthen WAMC’s reach into Northampton and nearby Amherst as well. The move comes just as the established NPR outlet in the region, WFCR (88.5 Amherst), is putting the finishing touches on the new facility that will move most of its studio operations from the UMass campus in Amherst down the valley to a new home in downtown Springfield.
On Martha’s Vineyard, the MVPBS group applies to shift its low-power FM application from 105.5 to 96.7, potentially making it an uncontested “singleton.”
And in the TV world, there’s word of job cuts, mostly behind the scenes, at the former LIN stations in Springfield and across the border in Providence. Among the staffers who aren’t being kept on by new owner Media General are Al Lehmann, the 45-year veteran audio engineer at WWLP (Channel 22) who’s also been the station’s on-air voice for decades.
*A veteran RHODE ISLAND radio voice is back on the air in New England: Tony Bristol, who was a longtime fixture on WPRO-FM (92.3) in Providence, is now being heard on the weekends on Greater Media’s WMJX (106.7) in Boston. After leaving the Ocean State, Bristol had been PD at WXYY in Hilton Head, S.C.
*There may be a new FM signal coming to VERMONT‘s largest market. Steve Silberberg’s W252CJ (98.3) now operates from Westford, halfway between Burlington and St. Albans, but he’s applied to move it south to Burlington itself. From its new home on the Intervale towers of WCAT (1390), the translator would run 220 watts, still relaying adult hits WWMP (103.3 Waterbury).
On TV, Hearst’s WPTZ (Channel 5) has split its subchannel programming. As of September 15, the Plattsburgh-licensed NBC affiliate now has separate subs carrying The CW (on 5.2) and MeTV (on 5.3), with CW Plus syndicated programming replacing the hours MeTV’s reruns formerly filled on 5.2. At least for now, the subs are reportedly not airing on WPTZ’s satellite station in the Upper Valley, WNNE (Channel 31).
And we’re looking forward to an upcoming documentary on Vermont PBS all about the life of Ken Squier. The world knows him, of course, as one of the preeminent voices of auto racing on radio and TV, but Vermont knows him as the second-generation proprietor of WDEV (550 Waterbury) and its sister stations; the documentary, set to air next month, will explore all of those facets of his fascinating life.
*In Littleton, NEW HAMPSHIRE, North Country Educational Radio is applying to modify its proposed LPFM signal from 103.1 to 104.3.
*It’s been a quiet week in PENNSYLVANIA, though we can at least nail down the new night host on iHeart’s WIOQ (102.1 Philadelphia). As we’d suspected, that hole in the Q102 schedule has been filled by “Raph,” aka Raphael Opida, the Rochester jock who recently jumped from Entercom to iHeart’s WKGS (Kiss 106.7) up here in Rochester, where he’s doing afternoons.
In Pittsburgh, longtime WDVE (102.5) jock Jim Krenn has moved down the road in Green Tree to a new weekly gig on CBS Radio’s KDKA (1020). On Fridays, Krenn is co-hosting the 8-9 AM hour of KDKA’s morning show with Larry Richert and John Shumway.
The Williamsport translator for Montrose Broadcasting’s WPGM-FM (96.7 Danville) wants a frequency change: W269AJ is applying to move from 101.7 to 102.1, refreshing an earlier CP for the frequency change issued in 2012.
Above Altoona, WALY (103.9 Bellwood) remains at 380 watts/918′, but it has installed a directional antenna at its Wopsononock Mountain transmitter site.
*If you’ve been waiting for two long-silent AM frequencies to return to the air in one of CANADA‘s largest markets, you’ll have to wait a bit longer. The CRTC last week granted the Tietolman-Tetreault-Pancholy (TTP Media) group another extension to build a new English-language news-talk station on AM 600 and a French-language counterpart on AM 940 in Montreal. The group now has until November 21, 2015 to build those stations, but as months and years continue to pass with little news about any actual progress on those stations (or their proposed French-language sports talk sister on 850), there’s growing doubt that they’ll ever actually see air in a market where Cogeco’s CHMP (98.5) dominates the French talk landscape and Bell’s CJAD (800) similarly dominates in English.
In Toronto, the CRTC has granted a power boost to Greek-ethnic CHTO (1690), where Canadian Hellenic Radio can increase day power from 3 kW to 6 kW. Night power will remain at 1 kW.
Over at CJRT (91.1), there’s a change coming to the morning show starting today, as Heather Bambrick exits “Good Morning Toronto,” replaced by former CBC host Garvia Bailey. Bailey joined JAZZ.FM91 in July as senior arts editor, a role that will now be filled by another CBC veteran, Mark Wigmore. Bambrick will stay with the station as the host of “Jazzology” and the live-to-air concerts the station broadcasts.
In Fergus, north of Guelph, Centre Wellington Community Radio wants a frequency change at its CICW (92.9). If “The Grand” is granted its move to 101.1, it will go from 45 watts average/125 watts max DA to 750 watts average/2500 watts max DA, still at 49 meters.
Over in Bancroft, the CBC is moving another of its low-power AM relays to FM: CBLV (600) will move to 99.3, with 269 watts/-29.7 m.
(shown: your editor and the Cup…)
We’ll start with the Montreal Canadiens, whose radio picture is as stable as can be, in French on CHMP (98.5) and in English on CKGM (TSN Radio 690). It’s TV that gets interesting this year for the Habs and the other Canadian teams, which enter the first year of their new deal with Rogers. The whopping C$5 billion, 12-year deal made big headlines when it was announced last November, especially since it brings the CBC’s long, long run as a hockey producer to an end. “Hockey Night in Canada” will still be seen on CBC stations, but it will be produced by Rogers’ Sportsnet, complete (so far as we can tell right now) with Don Cherry in all his sartorial splendor. What does change, in a big way, is the level of access out-of-market fans will have to each team’s coverage: if you’re a Habs fan in Toronto, for instance, RDS French-language game coverage will now be blacked out and you’ll have to buy the Centre Ice package. (Steve Faguy, as always, breaks it down in detail.)
The new TV deal means a new radio play-by-play voice on CKGM. After three years with the station, John Bartlett has departed to become the Habs’ TV voice for Rogers Sportsnet and CityTV regional broadcasts; as of Sunday night, no replacement had been named yet in the radio booth.
The Ottawa Senators remain on CFGO (now rebranded TSN Radio 1200) with their English-language game coverage, but the French-language play-by-play shifts to CJFO (94.5 Unique FM) this fall. The English-language radio network includes three Canadian affiliates (CKAT 600 North Bay, CHLK 88.1 Perth, CHOV 96.7 Pembroke) plus one across the border, WQTK (92.7 Ogdensburg NY). On TV, the Sens remain on TSN and RDS this year, except for the national games seen on Rogers’ CityTV and on HNIC via CBC.
The Toronto Maple Leafs probably won’t hoist the Cup again this year, either, but they’ll do so on the same split station lineup they were on last year: on the radio, the games will be divided between Toronto’s two rival sports outlets, Rogers’ CJCL (Sportsnet 590 the FAN) and Bell’s CHUM (TSN Radio 1050), while TV coverage splits between TSN and Rogers’ Sportsnet and CityTV.
Across the border, the Buffalo Sabres probably won’t win the Cup either (sigh…), but they’ll fill the airwaves of WGR (550) in Buffalo and a five-station network as they make another valiant attempt. TV games remain on a regional split of the MSG Network.
MSG’s big property, of course, is yet another Stanley Cup non-contender, the New York Rangers, who remain on ESPN’s WEPN-FM (98.7 New York) and on MSG TV. The loss of WEPN’s on-and-off East End relay on Long Island, WLIR (107.1 Hampton Bays) means listeners out at the tip of Suffolk County will have to stream the games if they want to hear them.
The New York Islanders picked up WEPN for a few of their playoff games at the end of last season, but they will play out their last season at the old Coliseum in Uniondale on college radio once more. Hofstra’s WRHU (88.7 Hempstead) will carry the games for a fifth, and presumably final, winter before moving to Brooklyn next year, where they’ll presumably have better leverage for a commercial radio deal. TV coverage remains on the MSG Plus network.
The New Jersey Devils return to WFAN (101.9/660) for another season, with TV split between MSG and MSG Plus.
The Philadelphia Flyers enter their third season on Greater Media’s “Fanatic,” WPEN-FM (97.5 Burlington NJ), with some games bumped to sister station WMMR (93.3) when there’s a conflict with the Sixers. On TV, the Comcast-owned team is, of course, seen on Comcast Sports Network and Comcast Network Philadelphia, the former CN8.
The Pittsburgh Penguins remain in their deal with iHeart’s WXDX (105.9), which programs an all-Pens channel on 105.9-HD2. A 34-station network brings play-by-play to affiliates as far afield as Erie, Williamsport, West Virginia, western Maryland and eastern Ohio. Root Sports once again has TV coverage.
And the Boston Bruins remain in place on WBZ-FM (Sports Hub 98.5) and NESN; this year, the radio network includes several more pieces of rival Entercom’s WEEI network as WVEI (1440 Worcester) and WWEI (105.5 Easthampton/Springfield) begin a three-year deal to air most of the Bs schedule, give or take a few preemptions for UMass sports coverage.
We’ll tackle the AHL and the other minor leagues next week…
BACK BY POPULAR DEMAND….
It’s the annual Tower Site Calendar!
This is the 23rd edition of our popular wall calendar, featuring gorgeous full-color photos of tower and transmitter sites from around the country, and sometimes the world. Our photos capture the sites throughout the day and throughout the year.
This makes a great gift for the tower enthusiast in your life — or a special treat for yourself!
Because it’s not yet off the press, we’re offering a pre-production price of $20. Once the calendar is printed, the price will go up to our regular price of $21.
Don’t wait – order yours today!
We have the Radio Historian’s Calendar again this year, too. There are only 25 in stock and they sell fast, so don’t wait to order.
Prime ad space that’s easy on the eyes
Here’s how an ad in our calendar has better exposure than one in a magazine:
1. Magazines issues are designed to be looked at for a period of weeks or months. Calendars are designed to be looked at for a whole year.
2. Magazines are read or glanced at, then placed in a drawer or in a pile. Calendars are hung on a wall.
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!
A 4-by-1-inch banner ad on each month’s page costs only $2,500. That’s less than one penny for each impression your ad makes on a broadcast-industry professional.
The Tower Site Calendar has become THE prestige print product of the broadcast industry. Since 2002 it has become a must-have for engineers and engineering managers in stations big and small, all over North America.
Give us your layout and we’ll give you the exposure.
We’re ready to work with you! Call us at 585-442-5411 between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. ET, or email email@example.com.
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 30, 2013
*In an era of aggressive consolidation by TV station owners, no company has been more aggressive than Maryland-based Sinclair Broadcast Group and its affiliated companies. Over the last few decades, Sinclair has built multi-station clusters all over the region, starting from one of its original holdings in Pittsburgh and growing with acquisitions that included the former Act III Fox affiliates in upstate New York, the Guy Gannett stations in Springfield and Portland, Freedom”s WRGB in Albany, Newport”s WHAM-TV in Rochester and most recently Barrington”s Syracuse cluster.
Now Sinclair is shoring up its position in PENNSYLVANIA with the $90 million acquisition of New Age Media”s stations in the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton market, along with signals in Tallahassee and Gainesville, Florida.
New Age has been operating three stations in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre: it owns Fox affiliate WOLF-TV (Channel 56/RF 45, licensed to Hazleton) outright, operates CW affiliate WSWB (Channel 38/RF 31, licensed to Scranton) under a shared-services agreement with licensee MPS Media of Scranton, and also owns MyNetwork affiliate WQMY (Channel 53/RF 29, licensed to Williamsport) by licensing that station as a satellite of WOLF-TV. (WQMY”s programming also airs on a DTV subchannel of WOLF-TV, while WOLF-TV and WSWB are seen on subchannels of WQMY for Williamsport OTA viewers, in the unlikely event there are any.) As part of the New Age deal, WSWB”s license will be transferred to Sinclair”s partner company, Cunningham Broadcasting, but Sinclair will operate the station.
Sinclair”s acquisition of the WOLF-TV/WSWB/WQMY cluster puts all three of the station groups in the market in the hands of big group owners: Nexstar has been in the market since the 1990s at NBC/CBS combo WBRE (Channel 28)/WYOU-TV (Channel 22), while dominant ABC affiliate WNEP (Channel 16) is part of the pending deal to transfer Local TV LLC”s stations to the reworked Tribune TV group. (It will be in the hands of a shell company, Dreamcatcher Broadcasting, until Tribune can fully separate its TV holdings from the newspapers it”s spinning off, including the Allentown Morning Call at the edge of the market.)
*In western NEW YORK, the long-somnolent Buffalo radio market has been awfully busy in the last few weeks. Just since Labor Day, listeners in the Queen City have heard a flip from liberal talk to ESPN sports on Entercom”s WWKB (1520), a new top-40 simulcast just across the border at Niagara”s CFLZ (101.1)/CJED (105.1) – and now the end of the simulcast of news-talk WBEN (930 Buffalo) on Entercom”s WLKK (107.7 Wethersfield Township).
Entercom sparked two days worth of speculation when it announced the end of the simulcast on Tuesday: would 107.7 become the new FM home of the company”s other big Buffalo AM, sports signal WGR (550), alleviating some of that 5 kW signal”s nighttime issues to the east? Might a return to the country format used by former owner John Casciani (as WNUC in the 1990s) be in the offing? Or a return to Entercom”s first stab at a 107.7 format after it bought the station for $10.5 million in 2004 and flipped it to AAA as “the Lake”?
Instead, when the simulcast plug was abruptly pulled in the middle of Sandy Beach”s sign-off just before noon on Thursday, the replacement was “Alternative Buffalo.”
The new format, which launched with the Lumineers” “Ho Hey” and included top-40 hits such as Lorde”s “Royals” in its first hour, is about as “alternative” as the Bills are a “football team” – but it”s something that has been working for Entercom in other markets such as Portland, Oregon, and it makes a nice companion to Entercom”s two female-leaning FMs in the market, top-40 WKSE (Kiss 98.5) and hot AC WTSS (Star 102.5). It”s running jockless for now, programmed from Portland by Mark Hamilton, PD of Entercom”s KNRK (94.7) there. Entercom says it”s launching the proverbial “nationwide search” for a Buffalo PD, but there”s no word yet about an on-air staff.
*In Albany, Radio Disney pulled the plug over the weekend on WDDY (1460), one of its smallest remaining owned-and-operated outlets. WDDY was one of six stations around the country to go silent while awaiting a sale (the others included Radio Disney stations in Milwaukee, Salt Lake City and Richmond), following on the heels of an earlier round of sales that shed Disney outlets in Hartford and Providence. Disney says it plans to keep operating AM outlets in the top 25 markets, meaning WQEW (1560 New York), WMKI (1260 Boston) and WWJZ (640 Mount Holly NJ/Philadelphia) are safe for now, as probably is WDDZ (1250 Pittsburgh).
We”ve heard nothing at all just yet about potential buyers for WDDY, a venerable regional-channel signal (long known as WOKO and later as WWCN and WGNA) that runs 5000 watts DA-N from a three-tower site in Delmar, south of Albany.
Five Years Ago: September 28, 2009
If the big news story from PENNSYLVANIA last week was the G-20 summit that drew world leaders, protesters and news media to Pittsburgh, there’s no question that the big industry news story was taking place 300 miles away across the state, where the NAB Radio Show drew some 2500 radio people to the Philadelphia Convention Center for three days of exhibits, conferences and awards.
Many of those northeast radio people didn’t make it out to the big NAB Show in Las Vegas in April, when the economy (and travel budgets) hit a low point – but the convenience of a show that was within a few hours’ drive or an easy train ride was too much to pass up, which may explain why we saw so many familiar faces on the show floor.
This was, all in all, an optimistic show for small radio operators. While there weren’t many deals actually being announced at this year’s show, we left Philadelphia with the general sense that the decline in station prices is offering a real opportunity to broadcasters with the resources to start buying up stations from debt-laden bigger owners. Owners of all sizes found good news on the show floor, too: while there were few ground-breaking new products, there were plenty of vendors offering inexpensive versions of their consoles, automation systems, transmitters and antennas aimed at stations looking to save money without compromising too much on quality. There was good news in the session rooms, too: under the FCC’s new leadership, the Media Bureau is promising quicker action to clear the backlog of indecency complaints and other issues that have been clogging the desks at the Portals.
There was controversy as well – we spent Friday morning in a session devoted to the thorny topic of an HD Radio power increase, a topic that’s of particular concern in the crowded FM spectrum along the northeast corridor. Indeed, one of the key studies being debated looked at the tight spacing between Greater Media’s WKLB (102.5) in Boston and Rhode Island public station WRNI-FM (102.7 Narragansett Pier), which has complained of interference from WKLB’s tests at increased digital power levels. The FCC appears to be waiting for industry leaders including Ibiquity, NPR Labs and the “Joint Parties” (the station owners and manufacturers pushing for a power increase) to come together on a solution – and at least on Friday morning, the sense was that a compromise involving small power increases and additional studies was in the works, but not finalized.
As for awards, four Marconi Awards went home with NERW-land broadcasters: Jerry Lee’s WBEB (101.1 Philadelphia) won hometown honors as both major-market station of the year and AC station of the year, while Matt Siegel of Boston’s WXKS-FM won major-market personality of the year and Buffalo’s WGR (550) won sports station of the year.
A MASSACHUSETTS broadcaster is filing for chapter 11 bankruptcy. Sandab Communications, which does business as Cape Cod Broadcasting, owns hot AC WQRC (99.9 Barnstable), country WKPE (103.9 South Yarmouth), AC WOCN (104.7 Orleans) and classical WFCC (107.5 Chatham), as well as the World Classical Network – and it says it owes M&T Bank $6.5 million dollars, as well as a $3.5 million debt to Charles River Broadcasting that still remains from the $7.5 million purchase of the Orleans and Chatham stations. Sandab says it will continue the stations’ operations without change while it reorganizes.
There’s just one other piece of Bay State news this week, and it comes from the unlicensed side of the dial: “WPOT,” the Dorchester-based pirate that’s already been visited once by the FCC, has changed frequencies. The former 97.5 operation is now on 87.7, though it’s still calling itself “Hot 97.”
Jeff Shapiro’s Great Eastern Radio is adding two more stations to its NEW HAMPSHIRE holdings with a deal to pick up WNNH (99.1 Henniker) and WWHQ (101.5 Meredith) from Nassau Broadcasting, which had to spin those two signals to stay under FCC ownership caps. No sale price has been announced for that pair of signals; meanwhile, we hear that Great Eastern won’t be closing on the $700,000 deal it announced almost a year ago to acquire WCVR (102.1) and WTSJ (1320) in Randolph, VERMONT from Ken Barlow’s Vox group. WTSJ has already shifted programming, switching from a simulcast of Great Eastern’s country WXXK (100.5 Lebanon NH) back to Vox’s news-talk WEAV (960 Plattsburgh NY).
Ten Years Ago: September 27, 2004
Boston University’s proposed sale of WRNI (1290 Providence) and WXNI (1230 Westerly) isn’t a done deal, at least as far as some RHODE ISLAND state officials are concerned. Attorney General Patrick Lynch stepped into the fray last week, asserting his concern about the fate of donations made to the WRNI Foundation, the WBUR-controlled entity that handles the station’s finances and holds their licenses. In the meantime, the Foundation for Ocean State Public Radio, which says it’s raised more than $3 million in donations to WRNI since the station went on the air in 1998, says it will fight to keep the stations on the air with their current public radio format – even as it tries to avert WBUR’s effort to sell the licenses.
The WBUR organization, never known for its openness with information, acknowledged to the Boston Globe that WRNI supporters were “shocked” by the sale announcement, even as station managers made the claim that WBUR never intended to operate the Rhode Island stations for more than a few years, a position that WBUR somehow never took publicly at any point before it announced the impending sale a week ago.
The “WMEX” oldies are already history in southern NEW HAMPSHIRE, where WSNH (900 Nashua) ended its brief semi-simulcast of WMEX (106.5 Farmington NH) and flipped to ESPN sports last week.
Over in the Upper Valley, WTSL (1400 Hanover) has a new simulcast – it’s being heard now on WXKK (93.5 Springfield VT), which had been simulcasting WTSL’s AC sister, WGXL (92.3 Hanover).
In MAINE, supporters of Air America Radio are fighting to keep the liberal talk network on the air in Portland. They sent e-mails and letters to WLVP (870 Gorham) asking the Nassau-owned station to rethink its proposal to flip to ESPN sports, and it worked – sort of. WLVP now says it will keep Air America on the air through the elections, switching to ESPN November 8.
A well-known PENNSYLVANIA morning team is moving on: Ken Anderson and Kitty McVay of WCTO-FM (96.1 Easton) are taking their top-rated “Ken and Kitty” show to Cincinnati, where they’ll be heard on “Star” country WYGY (96.5 Lebanon OH). WCTO PD Sam Malone and middayer Becca Lynn take over morning drive at “Cat Country.”
Fifteen Years Ago: September 24, 1999
There’s so little going on this week, we’ll start off with a format change in MAINE, Searsport to be exact. That’s where Moon Song Communications has ended the simulcast of WVOM (103.9 Howland)’s talk format on WBYA (101.7). The Bangor-market station is now doing “Quality Rock” (sort of an AAA-ish thing) without jocks, except in morning drive when the WVOM simulcast continues. This is the first time in a few years WBYA has had its own format; before the WVOM simulcast, it relayed classical WAVX (106.9 Thomaston, now WBQX). We hear the Moon Song folks wanted to use the old “Wave” nickname, but WBQX (now “W-Bach”) put a halt to that.
A quiet week this week in MASSACHUSETTS, with little but the rumor mill to keep us company. What’s it telling us? That the new calls on 96.9 could well be WTKK (fitting, one supposes, in a market that’s seen WKKT and WTTK in past years); that disgraced pol Peter Blute could soon be sailing into a new job as morning co-host (with Andy Moes?) at WRKO (680); that Judi Papparelli has landed in a new slot on Talk America from 10-noon weekdays — actually, that’s no rumor, it’s reality as of this past Monday.
As goes Boston, so goes Albany? Maybe not…but we do note that smooth jazz is about to make an exit in New York’s capital city, as WHRL (103.1) prepares to make a format change October 1. We hear station manager Peter Baumann is out and PD Brant Curtis has been bumped down to production director. Hmmm…Clear Channel, upstate New York…why do we suspect a CHR “Kiss” clone could be next?
Meantime across the border in CANADA, the CRTC will allow Bea-Ver Communications to build a new FM station in Chatham. The 50kW outlet on 94.3 will have a modern rock format, and will be co-owned with Chatham’s CFCO (630) and CKSY (95.1).
And we note another possible reason for the CBC’s haste in moving to FM in major cities: Only by having an FM signal like CBLA (99.1 Toronto) can the CBC lease out subcarrier space — which is just what they’re applying to do on both 99.1 and CBL-FM (94.1), apparently to Spanish and Portuguese broadcasters.