In this week’s issue… Big honor for upstate engineer – End of the line for NBC affiliate – Fox, Cox complete Boston swap – iHeart signal swaps granted – More classical in NH – Plus: Hockey on the Radio – The Minor Leagues

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*Too often in this column, when we’re singing the praises of one of the industry’s pioneering engineers, we’re doing it in the context of an obituary. So it’s nice to be able to say by way of preface that Gino Ricciardelli is alive and well and still working, well into his 90s.

sbe-ginoAfter Wednesday’s SBE 22 Expo at Turning Stone in Verona, the veteran Binghamton engineer can now add “Fellow of the Society of Broadcast Engineers” to his list of honors, and what a well-deserved honor it is! A World War II veteran (though his time with “submarines” was strictly with the cable variety, not the vessels, as he noted with a smile), Ricciardelli came back to Binghamton to find himself charged with learning how to build the market’s first TV station, WNBF-TV (Channel 12). After flipping the switch to turn that station on, he went on to build the second station in the market, WINR-TV (Channel 40), as well as its first educational outlet, WSKG-TV (Channel 46).

Ricciardelli’s colorful career included many decades with channel 40, now WICZ-TV, and with its parent company Stainless Broadcasting. How many engineers who built the first black-and-white analog stations in the 1940s went on to build out DTV conversions? Gino did, and he’s still a consultant to WICZ and its corporate sisters.

His long history with the SBE goes back almost to the beginning: as member #117, he’s both a life member and a charter member of the national organization and Binghamton’s Chapter 1. And while he doesn’t travel too much anymore, his fellow Chapter 1 members were happy to drive him to Turning Stone to receive a standing ovation at the SBE’s national awards dinner, held as part of the SBE national meeting that was part of this year’s SBE 22 Expo.

Congratulations, Gino!

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*For a long, long time, Boston was an unusual top-10 market in that it had no network owned-and-operated TV stations. NBC tried to change that in the 1960s with a never-consummated deal to buy WNAC-TV (Channel 7), but it took until the 1980s for MASSACHUSETTS to achieve O&O status, first with Fox’s acquisition of WFXT (Channel 25) and then the CBS purchase of Westinghouse that brought WBZ-TV (Channel 4) into the fold. In the meantime, Fox sold channel 25 to the Celtics, then reacquired it – and now it’s traded WFXT away once again.

wfxt-coxAs of last week, WFXT belongs to Cox, which got both Boston and WHBQ-TV (Channel 13) in Memphis from Fox in exchange for the Fox affiliate the network has long coveted, KTVU (Channel 2) Oakland/San Francisco, along with its independent sister KICU (Channel 36). The deal gets Fox out of an AFC market in which most of the Patriots’ games are on CBS’ WBZ-TV and puts it into an NFC market where most 49ers games air on KTVU. It also brings some key KTVU managers east to WFXT: Lee Rosenthal will become WFXT’s news director, joining the GM swap we already knew about that brings Cox’s Tom Raponi to Boston in an even exchange for current WFXT GM Gregg Kelley.

And from the Baseless Speculation Dept.: Cox just went to a bit of trouble to grab the “WFOX-TV” calls for itself, and right now they’re on Cox’s Fox affiliate in Jacksonville, the former WAWS-TV (Channel 30). Could that nifty callsign really be meant for what’s now by far Cox’s biggest Fox outlet in W-land?

*Over at WBZ-TV, staffing cutbacks last week claimed several newsroom jobs, most notably that of veteran reporter Joe Shortsleeve. He’d been with WBZ for 24 years, the sort of long tenure that was once the norm at channel 4. Sera Congi and New Hampshire-based reporter Michael Rosenfield are also out at channel 4.

wedx-bullonly*The FCC didn’t take long to approve iHeart Media’s big signal shuffle in eastern New England. The former Clear Channel now has the go-ahead to cut back the signals of WWBB (101.5 Providence, RHODE ISLAND) and recently-acquired WCIB (101.9 Falmouth) so it can take Boston-market WBWL (101.7 Lynn) non-directional.

We’ve had a spirited discussion going over at the RadioInsight Community about the merits of the moves, which will reduce WCIB’s power and make it directional and, more dramatically, reduce WWBB all the way from class B down to a directional class A from downtown Providence, all in exchange for what looks on paper to be only a slight increase in coverage for “the Bull.” (In practice, we expect the real benefit for 101.7 will come from a big reduction in the adjacent-channel interference it gets from 101.5 across a big swath of the Boston market.)

*A few weeks ago, we noted that a whole bunch of “Hilltowns” LPFM construction permits in western Massachusetts, all of which appear to be connected to the indefatigable Brian Dodge, all filed for callsigns at the same time – and that some of those calls duplicated full-power stations’ callsigns in the region. Now at least one of those callsigns has been revoked: the 97.9 in Williamsburg (“Citizens for a Better Hilltowns”) had briefly been granted WCCC-LP, but now has no callsign on the books. Did Dodge (or “Tim Allen,” whose name is attached to these applications) tell the FCC he had permission to duplicate that famous Hartford callsign even when he didn’t?

*The Marconi Broadcasting Foundation isn’t having much luck in its attempt to put a new 101.1 LPFM in Cranston, Rhode Island. Its initial application for 101.1 ended up in a big mutually-exclusive group, and its attempt to modify the application to use 94.9 was dismissed last week because it would be third-adjacent to WBRU (95.5 Providence), which is on the FCC’s list of stations with reading services for the blind on their subcarriers. Those stations get enhanced third-adjacent protection. (There’s another interesting issue here for the localized LPFM service: if it had been granted the LPFM it sought in Cranston, Marconi says it would have divested the LPFM license it already owns – WIFL-LP in Wiersdale, Florida.)

Where are they now? The WALE callsign that migrated from Fall River to Providence only to die an ugly death with the now-defunct AM 990 facility has now won a well-deserved Florida retirement. It’s now on “105.5 the Whale” in St. Augustine, Florida, the former Steve Kingston-owned WYRE-FM.

*It’s been a month of departures at CBS Radio in Hartford, CONNECTICUT. On the heels of the retirement of veteran WTIC (1080) sportscaster Scott Gray, the news-talker parted ways last week with Pastor Will Marotti, who’d been doing afternoons since the disgraced former governor John Rowland exited that shift. WTIC says Marotti wasn’t intended to be a permanent replacement for Rowland, and he’ll continue to fill in there. For now, sports guy Joe D’Ambrosio takes the afternoon shift until a permanent host is announced.

Down the hall at WRCH (Lite 100.5), Joe Hann retired from his afternoon shift on Friday, ending a 25-year run with the station and 40 years in the business. No replacement has been named there yet, either.

wshu-30thThere’s a new legal ID coming to southern Connecticut: Connoisseur’s WFOX (95.9) has been granted a city-of-license change from Norwalk to Southport. The station will stay at its current Norwalk transmitter site and Milford studio; becoming a “Southport” station in name only. So why make the move? As best we can figure out, it’s about Nielsen Audio markets: the move will take WFOX out of the Stamford-Norwalk market and into Bridgeport with sister stations WPLR (99.1) and WEZN-FM (99.9).

Nearby, WSHU-FM (91.1 Fairfield) is celebrating its 30th anniversary as a public radio outlet with a nifty new website that’s worth a few minutes of your time.

With just hours to go before its construction permit was to expire October 6, Connecticut Public Radio/WNPR put translator W206BW (89.1 Westville) on the air. The 10-watter transmits from West Rock State Park, overlooking Hamden.

*Two new LPFM grants in New Britain have emerged out of what was a knotty MX group: Hispanic American Cultural Council wins a slot on 103.5, its originally-requested frequency, while “La Nueva Radio Restauracion AM 1620 Inc.” gets a grant on 96.9.

*There’s a new format in the Lake Sunapee region of NEW HAMPSHIRE. After acquiring silent WSCS (90.9 New London) from Sawyer-Colby College, Bob Vinikoor’s Vinikoor Family Foundation returned it to the air Thursday as “Classical WSCS,” complete with a new website at ClassicalWSCS.org. WSCS is now the second all-classical signal in the Granite State, joining New Hampshire Public Radio’s WCNH (91.5 Bow) down I-89 in the Concord market.

*In NEW YORK,the latest chapter in the slow-motion disassembly of Robert Pfuntner’s Pembrook Pines group is in the Southern Tier village of Bath, where WVIN (98.3) and WABH (1380) are now in the hands of court-ordered receiver Richard Foreman, who’s charged with selling them to pay off Pfuntner’s creditors. AC-formatted WVIN and sports-talk WABH were almost sold last year as part of a group with Pfuntner’s Elmira stations, but buyer Randy Reid never closed on the sale. The Elmira stations are now awaiting FCC approval for their sale to Gordy Ichikawa’s Tower Broadcasting, and with the recent sale of Pfuntner’s Olean/Salamanca signals to Sound Communications, Pfuntner is now left only with WQRW (93.5 Wellsville) and with WZKZ (101.9 Alfred), which is listed for sale.

There’s a foreclosure sale in the North Country, too, but for different reasons: Essex County says the owners of WNBZ (1240 Saranac Lake) haven’t paid taxes in several years on the station’s studio and tower site at the end of Santanoni Avenue, and so the county seized the properties over the summer. The station paid the back taxes to reclaim the tower site, but wasn’t able to manage the full $35,000 bill to get back the old studio building across the street, so it will be in an auction October 22. WNBZ is still on the air, apparently from the studios of its sister stations in Lake Placid, WIRD (920)/WLPW (105.5).

In Utica, two staffers have departed Townsquare’s WLZW (Lite 98.7) in as many weeks: first Trudy, the station’s longtime midday host, and now Mark Richards has departed the morning slot to make a Townsquare transfer back home to Buffalo, where he’s joining the airstaff at WMSX (Mix 96.1).

In Syracuse, Craig Fox keeps making translator moves; the latest adds a new Oneida-area translator, W279CK (103.7 Durhamville), to the “Dinosaur Radio” oldies network that now includes WNDR (103.9 Mexico), WMBO (1340 Auburn) and three other translator signals. Another of those translators, W251AK (98.1 Nedrow), has been granted a license to cover for a move up the dial to 98.7 from a new site in Camillus, southwest of Syracuse.

Here in Rochester, there’s news on multiple fronts from last year’s LPFM window. New Day Global Mission, one of three MX’d applicants for 97.1/97.3, modified its application for 98.5 instead, and now holds a shiny new CP to operate from the roof of the Strathallan Hotel east of downtown. Rochester Community TV tweaked its application to specify 100.9; it, along with the Ibero-American Action League, now alone on 97.1, are still awaiting FCC action on their applications.

wrfz-lpMeanwhile, Radio Free Rochester’s WRFZ-LP (106.3) is poised to be the first LPFM in town: its antenna went up Saturday on the roof of the Armory on East Main Street, with test transmissions heard for the first time Sunday morning. (Your editor was part of the crew that helped get the WRFZ-LP antenna in the air, and it’s always fun to help build a new signal for the community!)

A local callsign change that slipped by us last month: as of September 19, iHeart’s WQBW (95.1 Honeoye Falls) has become WAIO, playing off its new identity as “Radio 95.1.” The calls don’t get used much on the air, so it’s unlikely there will be confusion between commercial WAIO and another local LPFM due to hit the airwaves soon, WAYO-LP (104.3 Rochester).

Over in Warsaw, WCJW (1140) is now on the air with its daytime power increase, taking “CJ Country” from 2000 watts to 8000 watts outside of critical hours. The increased reach of the AM signal between Buffalo and Rochester allowed for the speedy grant of a power increase at its Batavia translator, W288BZ (105.5), which jumps from 180 to 250 watts.

Heading downstate, Pawling Public Radio has new calls for its new LPFM in Putnam County, which will be WPWL-LP (103.7).

On Long Island, Best Media has lost the license for translator W208AU (89.5 Massapequa). The translator, which was most recently listed as a relay of WSHU-FM (91.1 Fairfield CT), lost its licensed site in 2010 and had apparently been silent since 2012. It failed to respond to an FCC request for information about its operating status in August, and now it’s been deleted.

And on an otherwise quiet week in New York City, we note that Brigitte Quinn has replaced the happily retired Judy DeAngelis in morning drive on WINS (1010).

wmgmtv*Whenever a newspaper article over the years has claimed that the great state of NEW JERSEY “has no commercial TV network affiliates of its own,” we’ve quietly steamed about the way south Jersey’s WMGM-TV (Channel 40) gets routinely ignored. But sadly, those stories are about to become retroactively accurate: while we already knew that WMGM had sold its license to spectrum speculator LocusPoint and that NBC was pulling its affiliation at year’s end, there’s now word that the scrappy WMGM local news operation will be dismantled and that channel 40 will sign off completely as 2015 dawns. That means LocusPoint is ending the LMA under which former WMGM owner Access.1 continued to operate the station. Its studio facility in Linwood has been listed for sale with a local broker, and whatever plans Access.1 might have had to continue local news over WMGM-LD (Channel 10), which will rimshot Philadelphia when it’s built.

*Is Cumulus readying a new high-powered translator to add to its station roster in central PENNSYLVANIA? The Harrisburg cluster pioneered HD2-on-translators a few years back with “95.3 the Touch,” and now it appears to be poised to add W243BR (96.5) to its Harrisburg lineup. The translator currently belongs to New Jersey’s Hope Christian Church of Marlton, but it’s applying once again to relocate from York to the site of its primary station, WWKL (93.5 Mechanicsburg), where it would cover most of Harrisburg with 200 watts.

*In Philadelphia, the station-swap contract Beasley and CBS Radio filed last week doesn’t tell us much more that we didn’t already know about the deal that’s sending Beasley’s WXTU (92.5) and WRDW-FM (96.5) to CBS and CBS’ WIP (610) to Beasley. We now know for sure that Beasley will have to change calls on 610, since CBS is keeping the WIP-FM calls on 94.1; we also now know that CBS will lease the current Beasley studios in Bala Cynwyd back to Beasley so that WWDB (860) and WTMR (800 Camden NJ) can stay put, along with whatever 610 becomes. (We’d guess that WXTU will join CBS’ WOGL 98.1 and WPHT 1210 in the former KYW space now being rebuilt for them at 400 Market St. in Center City; as noted last week, the smart money is on 96.5 becoming KYW-FM and operating from the current KYW 1060 studios on Spring Garden Street.)

In Berwick, Family Stations is applying to relocate its translator W212AG from 90.3 to 89.5; it’s been displaced by last year’s sign-on of WFBA (90.5) in nearby Kulpmont. The translator is fed by satellite from Family’s KEAR-FM (88.1) in Sacramento.

Where are they now? It’s been over six years since Ken Anderson moved on from WODE (99.9 Easton) to San Francisco, breaking up the long-running “Ken and Kitty” morning team that had been part of several Lehigh Valley stations. Kitty McVey stayed on for several more years at WODE, but now she’s reuniting with Anderson a long way from the Lehigh Valley. The “Ken and Kitty Morning Show” is now in Memphis, where Anderson and McVey started last week at WEBL (“95.3/97.7 the Rebel”), where their PD is another NERW-land alumna, Nikki Landry, who moved on from WBEE in Rochester to work with Anderson at KBWF in San Francisco.

*It was a “just say no” kind of a week for regulators in CANADA, where the CRTC turned thumbs down on two stations seeking better signals. In Montreal, Radio Moyen Orient wanted a 50-watt nested FM repeater on 104.5 for its CHOU (1450), but the CRTC says the St.-Leonard area where the FM would have been located is outside the main service area of the AM signal, so it’s not an appropriate use for a nested repeater.

In Brighton, Ontario, My Broadcasting wanted more power at CIYM (100.9), where it says 316 watts/155 m isn’t enough to properly serve the downtown core. While the CRTC agreed that CIYM needs more power locally, it says the proposed boost to 2680 watts average/5 kW max DA/146.5 m would have given the station more coverage not just in Brighton but in the adjacent Belleville/Trenton market as well.

cjpeJust south of Belleville, there’s a new local signal testing in Prince Edward County. CJPE (99.3) in Picton plans to make its official launch as “County 99.3” on Wednesday.

The CBC wants to combine its signals in Mulgrave, Nova Scotia into a new antenna. CBHB (106.7), the Radio One signal, would go from 93.4 kW/165 m to 40.2 kW average/100 kW max DA/192 m, while CBH-2 (103.1), with Radio Two, would go from 40.5 kW average/100 kW max DA/170 m to 31.9 kW average/81.7 kW max DA/192 m.

*Our Hockey on the Radio coverage continues this week with the minor leagues, including some big moves in the AHL. The Flyers’ top farm team, the Phantoms, left its temporary home in Glens Falls last spring to return to Pennsylvania and a new arena in Allentown, but the Lehigh Valley Phantoms brought announcer Bob Rotruck along with them as they made their move. His play-by-play is now heard on WSAN (1470 Allentown), which is carrying the full season.

Replacing the Phantoms in Glens Falls is the Calgary Flames’ top farm team, formerly the Abbotsford (BC) Heat. The new Adirondack Flames pick up where the Phantoms left off, on WCQL (95.9 Queensbury), and this year they’re also simulcast on sister station WWSC (1450 Glens Falls).

Elsewhere around the AHL, the Portland Pirates (back home after spending last season in Lewiston) call WLOB (1310 Portland) home. Otherwise, it’s all iHeart stations for the league around New England. New Hampshire’s Manchester Monarchs return to WGIR (610) for another season. In Massachusetts, the Worcester Sharks play on WTAG (580/94.9), while the Springfield Falcons are once again on WHYN (560). The Providence Bruins appear to be webcast-only this year, as are the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, while the Hartford Wolf Pack are in the second year of their two-year deal with WPOP (1410).

The Albany Devils play a partial season (38 games) on WTMM (104.5 Mechanicville), with Josh Heller in the booth. The Utica Comets host the AHL All-Star Game in their second season; their games are once again on Galaxy’s WKLL (94.9). Dan D’Uva calls the full season of Syracuse Crunch games on Galaxy’s “ESPN CNY” stations, WTLA (1200)/WSGO (1440 Oswego) and their FM relays on 97.7 and 100.1. Our hometown Rochester Americans remain on WHTK (1280) with the venerable Don Stevens in the booth, and the Binghamton Senators play on iHeart’s WINR (680), aka “Oldies 96.9” via its FM translator.

In addition to the new Lehigh Valley entry in Pennsylvania, the Hershey Bears return to WHP (580), while the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins move to a new radio home on Entercom’s WILK network (WILK-FM 103.1 Pittston, WILK 980 Wilkes-Barre, WBZU 910 Scranton, WBZN 1300 Hazleton). The baby Pens also have broadcast TV coverage, via WQMY (Channel 53).

North of the border, Matt Holmes calls the Hamilton Bulldogs on CHML (900). In the shadow of the Leafs, the Toronto Marlies don’t have any broadcast radio this year, with a handful of TV games on Rogers TV. Out east, the St. John’s Ice Caps are on CJYQ (930) all season long, with 20 games on Rogers TV.

The East Coast Hockey League has three teams in plausible proximity to the East Coast this year. The Reading Royals play on WIOV (1240/98.5), the Elmira Jackals move from Pfuntner’s WEHH back to Community Broadcasters’ WNGZ (104.9), with Jared Abbott in the booth, and the Brampton Beast move from the CHL to the ECHL without a broadcast radio home.

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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: October 14, 2013

*There’s a country radio war brewing in NEW YORK‘s Capital District, and Bob Ausfeld is to blame.

Ausfeld led what’s now the Townsquare cluster there for many years, helping big-signal WGNA (107.7 Albany) to stay reliably at or near the top of the ratings. Last year, Ausfeld retired from Townsquare and then reappeared just a few months later as the new market manager at Pamal’s Albany Broadcasting cluster – and on Thursday, he made a swap there that he says he’d been wanting to do for a while, moving “Cat Country” from WZMR (104.9 Altamont) down the dial to WKLI (100.9 Albany).

wkli-catOn paper, the move takes “Cat” simply from one class A facility to another, but in the rather more complex real world of the FM dial there, the country station is getting a much stronger voice. While its existing 104.9 signal emanates from way up in the Helderbergs, home to most of Albany’s big class B FMs, WZMR runs just 530 watts up there with a directional antenna that helps to wedge the 104.9 in against other existing signals that limited it when it moved eastward from Johnstown in 1999.

WKLI, by contrast, is one of the best class As in the market, with 6 kW/328′ from a site centrally located between Albany and Schenectady (and just up the hill from Townsquare’s Kings Road studios), and putting “Cat Country” there sets up a battle with WGNA that Ausfeld says he’s been looking forward to entering.

“It is probably the best engineered frequency in the market,” Ausfeld tells the Albany Business Review.

Cat Country’s move to 100.9 wipes out “Rock 100.9,” the active rock station that’s been on that signal for two years – and it wipes out the entire staff there, including veteran morning man Bob “Wolf” Wohlfeld, his partner John Tobin, middayer Suzanne, PD/afternoon jock Tim Noble and night guy Mike the Enforcer.

*In MASSACHUSETTS, there’s a new AM signal about to hit the air within Boston city limits.

As the government was shutting down, station owner Alex Langer must have been breathing a sigh of relief, because his WMSX (1410 Brockton) was granted a construction permit to change city of license to Dedham in the final hours before the FCC’s staff was furloughed. And with that eleventh-hour grant in hand, Langer wasted no time beginning construction on WMSX’s new site in Readville, where there’s now a Valcom fiberglass whip antenna in place – and where NERW readers are the very first to get to to see it!

What happens next on 104.9? For now, it’s simulcasting with 100.9, but Pamal promises a new format there soon. Will it stunt with Christmas music in the meantime? Stay tuned…

Five Years Ago: October 12, 2009

More than 65 years of radio ownership by the New York Times came to an end just after 8 o’clock Thursday night, as WQXR-FM (96.3 New York) signed off from its Union Square studios, handing its powerful class B signal to Univision Radio’s WCAA (105.9 Newark NJ) and its intellectual property to public broadcaster WNYC, which also acquired the class B1 105.9 facility from Univision. Seconds later, 105.9 came to life again as the new WQXR, now a noncommercial classical station operating from WNYC’s Varick Street studios, starting a new era of classical radio in New York City.

Behind the scenes, there was plenty of drama in the final days before the transition, on both the engineering and programming fronts.

On the programming side, it appears that WNYC’s plans for its new acquisition came together at the last minute – especially when it came to the decisions on which of the “old” WQXR’s airstaff would be hired by WNYC for the “new” WQXR. It was only in the last hour of Times operation of WQXR, as staffers made their on-air farewells, that listeners learned that midday host Annie Bergen would be heard on weekends on 105.9. And even as the Times was saying farewell to WQXR with an audio montage of station IDs going back to the earliest days of W2XR experimental operation in the 1930s, Univision was readying some big changes for its $33.5 million acquisition of the 96.3 spot on the dial. While initial reports had suggested that the “La Kalle” format long heard on 105.9 would be making a smooth transition down the dial to 96.3, it now appears that Univision is instead launching a new station identity on its new frequency.

“La Kalle” vanished from the airwaves around 5:00 on Thursday afternoon, leaving the last three hours of WCAA operation on 105.9 to be filled by a repeating loop advising listeners that “this number has changed” – and when the loop ended, a few seconds after it was moved to 96.3, listeners heard several dance tunes that were very much unlike “La Kalle.” Even after the usual Spanish-language musical fare returned, it was running jockless, with repeated announcements to “mark your calendar with an X for October 15.” What’s more, the RDS display on 96.3 began showing “X 96” on Friday morning, strengthening speculation that a new format was on the way, along with new calls. On Thursday, Univision filed a request for “WXNY-FM” for 96.3, meaning those “WCAA New York” legal IDs now running will soon be collectors’ items.

On the HD Radio front, the new WQXR programming showed up on the HD-2 subchannel of the more powerful WNYC-FM (93.9) signal, replacing the more esoteric classical fare that’s now being offered as “Q2” on 105.9-HD2.

On the technical side, even the New Yorker noticed the flurry of activity surrounding the signal swap; a “Talk of the Town” item in the October 12 issue visited WNYC engineering director Jim Stagnitto as he worked on moving the 105.9 transmitter from Univision’s 81st-floor room at the Empire State building to WNYC-FM’s 79th-floor room. The new WQXR.org website also offered video of Stagnitto turning on the 105.9 signal on Thursday night – but that was just the conclusion of a longer, more complex transition process that took several days of nearly nonstop work by Stagnitto and WNYC chief technology officer Steve Shultis, as well as Univision’s Richard Ross and corporate engineer Mark Stennett, who came up from Texas to assist in the move. While they were relocating 105.9’s main transmitter downstairs to the WNYC room, and while WNYC was preparing WQXR’s new studios on Varick Street, WCAA remained on the air in its final days on 105.9 from an auxiliary transmitter a few blocks away at Four Times Square. It was that Four Times Square transmitter that remained on the air with the “move to 96.3” loop Thursday afternoon – and by Friday, preparations were underway to move that auxiliary transmitter out of Univision’s room upstairs to WNYC-FM’s own auxiliary room at Four Times Square. Once that move is complete, Univision will move the 96.3 auxiliary transmitter from West Orange, N.J. to Four Times Square, adding 96.3 to the combiner system there.

WQXR wasn’t the only New York station making a big move in the last few days: Friday was the last day for CBS Radio’s WFAN (660) at its longtime studio home deep in the bowels of the Kaufman Astoria studio complex in Astoria, Queens, several floors below the “Sesame Street” studios. WFAN’s move out of Kaufman Astoria came 22 years almost to the day after the pioneering all-sports format signed on from that space, though it was on 1050 AM back then. (Indeed, the studios even predate WFAN on 1050, having been built in 1986 for what was then WHN and sister FM station WAPP 103.5.) We hear the Astoria space will remain in CBS Radio’s hands, to be used as an emergency backup studio should the new space in lower Manhattan that WFAN now shares with four other CBS stations become unusable.

Out on Long Island’s East End, Long Island University has picked a buyer for its public radio station – and to nobody’s great surprise, it’s the local group called Peconic Public Broadcasting, led by the current management of WLIU (88.3 Southampton) and WCWP (88.1 Brookville). Peconic’s bid, said to be in the $2 million range, reportedly beat out at least two other offers, which were apparently from rival public broadcasting groups, not religious broadcasters, as had originally been reported. The next steps for Peconic will be both challenging and speedy: the group has to turn its celebrity endorsements from names such as Alec Baldwin and Jann Wenner into hard financial committments from listeners – and it has just a few months to get WLIU’s studios off the former Long Island University campus in Southampton (now part of SUNY Stony Brook) and into new space in Wainscott.

Greater Media jumped on the FM sports bandwagon in eastern PENNSYLVANIA Friday afternoon, with a surprise format change that pulled the plug on AC “Now 97.5” (WNUW Burlington NJ) before that format had even reached its first anniversary on the air. In its place, as of 5 o’clock Friday, is the Philadelphia market’s first all-sports FM signal, “97.5 the Fanatic,” picking up the programming that’s been struggling to find an audience on Greater Media’s lone Philly AM signal, WPEN (950), which has long been an also-ran against CBS Radio’s sports behemoth, WIP (610). The new “Revolution” lineup includes ESPN’s “Mike and Mike” in morning drive, followed by a yet-to-be-named local show from 10-noon (ESPN’s Steven A. Smith and Dan Schwartzman will be guest-hosting the shift this week), Harry Mayes and Vai Sikahema from noon-2, the flagship Mike Missanelli show from 2-7, a series of specialty shows at night, and ESPN’s programming filling out the schedule.

Ten Years Ago: October 11, 2004

Whether you loved her or loathed her, there’s no arguing that Jane Christo was one of the most prominent station managers not only in MASSACHUSETTS but in the entire broadcast community. But after 25 years in the saddle at WBUR-FM (90.9 Boston), Christo announced last week that she’s stepping down, closing a career that saw her transform WBUR from a better-than-average college radio station in dumpy quarters to one of the nation’s top public radio stations, operating from state-of-the-art studios.

WBUR staffers reportedly gave the teary-eyed Christo, 62, a standing ovation after she announced that she’ll resign this Friday – but it’s not clear how much of that was appreciation for her work, and how much was relief at the departure of the boss who oversaw not only the creation of Car Talk and Here and Now but also controversies that included the departure of prominent talk show host Christopher Lydon and even a spat over the proper wording of underwriting announcements that led to the firing of an overnight board operator. That level of personal involvement with WBUR’s product may well have spelled the end of Christo’s leadership there. The fight over her plans to sell Rhode Island satellite stations WRNI (1290 Providence) and WXNI (1230 Westerly) opened floodgates of criticism that led to an anonymous letter from staffers accusing her of mismanaging station funds and, last week, the start of an investigation by Boston University and, reportedly, by Massachusetts’ attorney general. The station reportedly owes Boston University more than $12 million, and ended 2003 $1.8 million in debt (though a BU spokesman told the Boston Globe that the station’s 2004 budget would be balanced), undercutting WBUR’s denials that the proposed sale of the Rhode Island stations, expected to net several million dollars, was financially motivated. In a statement, Christo said she believes that the investigation will determine that “the allegations of improper misconduct against me are baseless,” but that her departure will allow WBUR to return its focus to its news and talk programming. An interim general manager for the station is expected to be named this week. As always, stay tuned…

Of course, we can’t ignore the week’s big news on the national radio scene – the announcement by Howard Stern that he’s leaving NEW YORK’s WXRK (92.3) and his national syndication slot to move to Sirius Satellite Radio in 2006. (We can, however, forego the “Siriusly” puns that every other trade mag out there has been doing to death…)

Stern’s move was cannily timed to be the talk of the NAB Radio Show out in San Diego, where we can confirm that just about every conversation we had started not with “hello” but with “what about Howard?”

So, what about Howard? There’s some validity, to be sure, in the face most radio managers were putting on for public consumption – that Stern will inevitably lose some influence and power by going from his network of more than 40 stations and many tens of millions of potential listeners to a service that costs real money (think of it as $156 a year and you begin to understand both the cost to listeners and the potential revenue magnet that Stern brings to Sirius) and has just 600,000 subscribers right now. But it’s also worth noting a few other comments we heard during the show – especially one from a prominent agent for several “shock jocks” who said that nearly all his clients have asked him to investigate satellite deals in addition to terrestrial radio. And those radio managers and executives would do well, too, to listen to syndicated talker Tom Leykis, who responded to our question about Stern thusly: “Asking me about Stern going to satellite would be like asking the Rolling Stones, when they were still putting out cassettes, how the move to CDs would affect them.”

Translation: for those who provide the content (and, though they weren’t saying so in an audience full of terrestrial broadcasters, those who manufacture the equipment), Sirius and XM are just…more radio. That’s completely at odds, of course, with the official stance that satellite radio is a mortal enemy to terrestrial radio – but then, our editorial take, unpopular though it may be with some station owners, is that when all the dust settles, that’s how listeners will see the satellite services, too. It’s really not a change from the argument we’ve been making in this space for pretty much the entire decade this column has existed: terrestrial radio can and will survive by doing the things only terrestrial radio can do – which comes back to the mantra of “local, local, local.” No satellite-delivered service will ever out-WINS WINS when it comes to giving New Yorkers the headlines, traffic and sports they need. No satellite-delivered service will ever connect to soccer moms in the Boston suburbs as well as WMJX does. No satellite-delivered service will ever, ever, ever sound like WLNG out on Long Island’s East End (and speaking of that, our best wishes go out to Paul Sidney, who’s been off the air battling kidney problems of late.)

The wise words of my colleague Sean Ross are worth heeding here: “There are 13,000 radio stations that already have to deal with not having Howard Stern as their morning host.” (Read the rest of his cogent analysis at edisonresearch.com.) It’s a pretty good bet that stations like WBCN, WCCC, WXRK and WYSP, which already have established identities in their markets separate from Stern, will survive and even thrive in Stern’s absence; while their revenue streams will no doubt suffer from Stern’s absence, they’ll also be free of the burden of paying Stern’s big fees. It will be more interesting, we suspect, to see what becomes of stations like WHXR/WHXQ (“the Bone”), WZNE and WRKZ, which have built their entire identities on being “the Stern station” in their respective markets. And if Stern continues to talk up satellite radio’s virtues so extensively every morning, it’s a good bet that at least some of his present affiliates will send his show packing even before the end of 2005. (More wise words from the NAB show floor: “This is a very good time to be a morning-show talent agent.”)

Fifteen Years Ago: October 9, 1999

No question about where we start this first NERW from our new, more spacious location — the Clear Channel/AMFM merger announced this week creates yet another “largest group in radio” and points the way to a divestiture that will itself be one of the largest group sales in broadcast history.

We’ve watched over the last few years as Clear Channel entered the Northeast, starting in New Haven, adding Radio Equity Partners’ Springfield and Providence operations, buying TV in Albany and Providence, bursting into Albany and Utica with the purchase of Dame Media, then Rochester with the purchase of Jacor and Syracuse through a station swap with Cox. Meantime, AMFM slowly assembled itself through various Hicks, Muse-controlled entities, including Chancellor (which built groups in Boston through the purchase of Evergreen and in New York City through a series of acquisitions), Capstar (which first entered the region by buying Commodore Media in the New York suburbs, then swallowed Knight Quality Group, yielding stations from Burlington to Worcester, followed by SFX’s Providence, Springfield, Hartford, New Haven, Long Island and Albany stations), and several TV groups. Now the two are coming together in a $56 billion merger (which might have been a big story in the business press if it hadn’t been overshadowed by the even bigger MCI WorldCom-Sprint conglomeration), which will create an 830 station group and spin off nearly a hundred more.

As the last NERW went to press, the radio scene in Concord, NEW HAMPSHIRE was being upended with the announcement that Bruce Danziger’s Vox Media would pay $3.6 million for RadioWorks’ remaining stations, WJYY (105.5), WRCI (107.7 Hillsboro), and WNHI (93.3 Belmont). RadioWorks sold WNHQ Peterborough to Steve Mindich last month. Vox already owns WKXL (1450/102.3) in Concord, and the word is that WKXL-FM and WNHI will share a (country?) music format once the deal closes. The news-talk format of WKXL(AM) will be simulcast on WRCI, replacing the classic rock-and-Imus “I-station” simulcast that station now shares with WNHI. WJYY’s CHR won’t be affected, at least for now. All the stations will somehow squeeze into WKXL’s Redington Road facility.

A familiar voice is back on the morning airwaves in RHODE ISLAND, as Carolyn Fox takes over wakeup duties on classic rock WWRX (103.7 Westerly). The veteran of WHJY and WPRO displaces Don Imus — but don’t weep for the I-Man; he ends up on sister station WWBB (101.1), in turn displacing Daria Bruno and Rockin’ Joe Herbert, who are looking for a new gig elsewhere. Fox is no stranger to her new bosses at WWRX, since she worked for PD Bill Weston and GM Jim Corwin at WHJY not that long ago. (And in the funhouse world of late ’90s radio, it’s no surprise to note that WWRX/WWBB and WHJY are about to become sister stations anyway!)

Clear Channel is doing the format shuffle in Albany, as modern rock migrates from “The Edge” (WQBK 103.9 Rensselaer/WQBJ 103.5 Cobleskill) down the dial to the former home of smooth jazz, WHRL (103.1 Albany). That station flipped to “Channel 103.1, the new music alternative” just before midnight October 1, filling the void created a week earlier when the Edge stations switched to active rock as “Rock Radio, 103.5/103.9 the Edge.” (NERW detects shades of the Rochester format change in January that moved then-Jacor-owned WNVE from modern to active rock). WQBJ/QBK PD Rod Ryan adds WHRL to his portfolio, with Edge middayer Jason Keller moving over to mornings at WHRL.

5 COMMENTS

  1. The whole WFOX/Norwalk changing city of license situation makes no sense to me. Scott, your New Haven theory is a bit flawed since 95.9 is barely audible in New Haven, and it’s not even that strong in Bridgeport! 30 years ago when the late Bill McFarland worked at what was then known as “Q-96” (WLYQ), they unsuccessfully tried to sell to Bridgeport. The signal today is even worse with 96.1 on eastern Long Island causing problems. Just sayin…

    Marty Siegel

  2. Marty. I believe he meant that the station is entering the Bridgeport market, not the New Haven one. Southport is in the Bridgeport Neilsen market. It may not be that strong in Bridgeport, it still is part of the DMA. This happens often.
    (A better example of this is 99.9 in Athol, MA., which is in the Boston market… try listening to 99.9 in Boston sometime… )

    By changing the COL, it removes the station from the New York City sub-market of Norwalk/Stamford.

  3. Maybe you have a press release that says otherwise, but tonight the Hershey Bears were on WQIC-FM and last year’s members of the HB radio network: WTKT (AM sister of WHP), WOYK York, and probably on WLPA-AM Lancaster (FM had ESPN, which makes sense if FM rights were with WQIC). Maybe a mid-season change ?

    On a different Harrisburg note, one wonders if the 96.5 transponder (or current 95.3 transponder) might partner with CBS Sportsradio WGLD-1440 in York. This would allow WHGB-1400 and 96.5 or 95.3 to simulcast a new format. Maybe hip-hop, R&B ?

  4. Today (10/20) Michael Rosenfield was on the air on WBZ-TV and identified still as the Chief New Hampshire Correspondent. No change there.

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