In this week’s issue… First signal to light up from World Trade Center – Conrad Garage restoration kicks off – More Pfuntner sales in upstate NY – LPFM CPs flow from FCC – Veteran GM’s new NEPA gig
Thirteen years after the 9/11 attacks silenced the nine TV stations and four FM stations that broadcast from One World Trade Center, the first new signal is about to hit the airwaves from the new skyscraper that rises just a few hundred feet north of the old site. But even as WABC-TV (Channel 7) applies for special temporary authority to put an experimental signal on the air from the new building, it’s not at all clear that it – or any of the other stations that once called the Twin Towers home – will make a permanent return to lower Manhattan.
As WABC’s application explains, the 5 kW signal on RF channel 12 would be used only for testing purposes; specifically, “to test the propagation and reception characteristics of VHF TV channels to be compared with the characteristics of the existing VHF transmission facilities located at the Empire State Building.” There are three stations operating on high-VHF from Empire since the DTV transition; in addition to WABC’s main signal on 7, WPIX and WNET returned to their former VHF channels, 11 and 13, in 2009. All three are now looking intently at the merits of Empire versus the new 1 World Trade Center, and they have a plan (with the help of the Metropolitan Television Alliance umbrella trade group) to get some hard data to help make that decision.
The tests won’t be conducted with a full non-directional signal from the 1WTC mast – on channel 12, that would cause unacceptable interference to co-channel WHYY in the Philadelphia market, and potentially to Albany’s WNYT, which also uses RF 12 – but will instead operate with a single panel that will be shifted in different directions to test the signal across various arcs of New York City and its northern and eastern suburbs. (The use of channel 12 also required permission from ion’s low-power station WPXU-LD, which is licensed to use channel 12 from the top of the Bloomberg tower on Lexington Avenue, and which will yield the channel for testing.)
So what does it all mean, and what can we expect in the longer term for broadcasting from the World Trade Center in a time when over-the-air TV is caught between the rise of the cord-cutters and the potential riches to be had from abandoning OTA and yielding spectrum to the upcoming incentive auction?
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Let’s stipulate that a generation ago, these decisions would have been obvious: when stations still lived and died on the reach of their over-the-air signals, New York’s broadcasters would have been rushing back to the 1700-foot mast of 1WTC as soon as it was ready in order to take advantage of the extra height it provides over the Empire mast, which tops out at 1454 feet. Even in the wake of the improvements that have been made at Empire since TV stations had to make their post-9/11 return there, that midtown site is still less than optimal in many ways. Two master antennas mounted below the top of the mast there carry most of the big stations in town: a high-VHF antenna is shared by WABC-TV, WPIX and WNET, while a UHF master antenna is home to WNBC (4/RF 28), WCBS-TV (2/RF 33), WWOR (9/RF 38) and WNYW (5/RF 44).
Once the unchallenged champion for height in Manhattan, Empire now has competition in the form of several slender residential towers that are beginning to dot the midtown skyline at greater heights, raising the possibility for undesirable signal reflections and blockages of what was once a clean line of site from Empire to most of the metro area.
Even so, for half a decade now, those Empire signals have qualified as “good enough.” As cable and satellite penetration kept growing, the assumption in much of the television industry was that the importance of over-the-air television would continue to decline. But that’s now being challenged by a growing number of viewers rejecting the rapid rise in cable bills and the “all or nothing” nature of bundled cable packages and turning instead to some combination of streaming services (including, perhaps, the new paid-subscription streaming model CBS is testing) and over-the-air broadcasting. It matters, once again, that a TV station can deliver a reliable signal to an antenna – and in most of Manhattan and Brooklyn, that has to be an indoor antenna.
But while OTA broadcasting is suddenly important, so is the possible payoff from putting channels into the upcoming spectrum auction. There’s no reason to expect WABC-TV or WCBS-TV or WNYW to give up their immensely valuable channels – but every reason to think that Fox might yield up WWOR’s spectrum and allow “channel 9” to survive as a WNYW subchannel, for instance. The outcome of the auction will determine how many over-the-air stations survive in New York, and thus how much demand still exists for the scarce real estate up at the top of New York’s broadcast skyscrapers.
Which in turn brings us to the other bottom line here: this is also a real estate decision. Just two landlords control all of that prime vertical space. The Durst Organization manages both the 1 World Trade Center spire, which has no announced tenants yet, and the 4 Times Square tower that has become a prime alternative to Empire for midtown broadcasters. Durst has been working hard to lure broadcasters away from their current contracts at Empire, and if it can use the results of the channel 12 test to demonstrate that TV stations will have comparable (or even improved) coverage from the 1WTC site, the real decision about where to put the next generation of DTV transmitters in the city will likely be as much a question of who offers the better deal on rent as anything else.
(As for FM, we’ve been pointing out for a while now that the center of gravity is likely to remain in midtown, since many of the FMs on Empire have spacing issues that would prevent them from moving to the Trade Center at full power. Only a handful of stations, most notably WPAT-FM on 93.1, are short-spaced at Empire and would benefit from a move back downtown.)
*The other big news from the city hasn’t actually happened yet. There are few broadcast trade journalists as consistently reliable as Tom Taylor, so when he reported last week that Disney had reached a $12 million deal to sell WQEW (1560 New York) to Family Stations, the news quickly spread to the newspapers and the message boards.
It’s a deal that makes perfect sense: Family has been seeking to return to the New York radio dial ever since it sold the former WFME (94.7 Newark) to Cumulus two years ago, and the things that make WQEW less desirable to mainstream broadcasters these days (a huge nighttime skywave signal offset by spotty coverage within the market, not to mention its position way up at the top of the AM dial) aren’t deal-breakers to Family, which is more interested in broad reach than in Nielsen Audio ratings. And even given how much money Family spent (and how much debt it incurred) promoting the end of the world in 2011, it’s likely that there’s enough left from the $40 million sale of 94.7 to pay for the 1560 signal.
The only hitch, so far, is that the deal doesn’t appear to be completed. The broker selling the Disney stations tells the trades that there’s nothing to announce yet. But if Tom says it’s going to happen, it’s probably going to happen – so watch this space for further updates.
*Univision Radio appears to be on the verge of a format change on one of its New York-market FMs: WQBU (92.7 Garden City) has been running the national “Univision America” talk network, but it’s reportedly poised to return to regional Mexican as “92.7 Nueva York.”
*Those of you who closely peruse the FCC Daily Digest every day (and yes, there are a bunch of you among our loyal readership) may have noticed an oddity on Tuesday: W232AL (94.3), the translator Cumulus just moved from Rockland County across the river to Westchester as the new “WFAS-FM,” applying to move back to Rockland with just 3 watts. What’s that about? Apparently nothing more than a placeholder to protect the western fringe of the current Westchester 94.3 signal from any potential incursion; there’s every reason to believe the 94.3 signal is staying put on the old WFAS-FM (103.9) tower in Greenburgh, especially now that there’s once again a local airstaff on 94.3. Mary DeSilva started last week in mornings, followed by the syndicated John Tesh middays and then “The Hartman” in afternoons.
*Upstate, another piece of what was once Robert Pfuntner’s broadcast empire stretching across a big chunk of the southern tier has been sold. WZKZ (101.9 Alfred) has been a standalone country station serving a mostly rural area around Wellsville and Hornell, west of the Elmira-Corning market where Pfuntner’s cluster is in the midst of a sale to tower owner Gordy Ichikawa and east of the Olean-Salamanca area, where Pfuntner’s stations were recently sold to another regional broadcaster, Sound Communications.
(NERW readers will recall that Sound was involved in an earlier attempted sale of the Pfuntner Elmira cluster, but backed out after questions were raised about Sound’s ties to another local broadcaster. Vision Communications, which owns two local TV stations, is financed by the husband of Sound backer Bettina Finn and operated by the husband of Sound GM Paige Christian.)
Now Sound is buying WZKZ, too, adding it to existing clusters in Elmira-Corning (talk WENY/WENI, AC WENY-FM/WENI-FM, oldies WGMM), Olean-Salamanca (the ex-Pfuntner stations, standards WOEN/WEHH, rock WQRS and AC WMXO) and Hornell (country WKPQ).
No sale price was announced for the deal, brokered by Dick Foreman. Once it and the Elnira sale both close, and once Foreman has found a buyer for WVIN (98.3)/WABH (1380) in Bath, now in foreclosure, Pfuntner will be left with just one remaining station, WQRW (93.5) in Wellsville.
Meanwhile, Paige Christian and Sound made another acquisition last week: they’re buying translator W294BU (106.7 Hornell) and construction permit W296CR (107.1 Hornell) from Bilbat Radio for $1000, closing the books on another once-prominent local broadcaster. The Bilbat group was once Hornell’s biggest broadcaster before financial problems closed down WHHO (1320) and forced the sale of WKPQ (105.3) to Sound.
*While we’re out along the I-86 corridor, we note a format change in Olean: Colonial Media and Entertainment’s W230BO (93.9) has dropped CBS Sports Radio for classic country as “The Brand.” It’s part of a cluster that includes talker WVTT (96.7 Portville), country “Bob” WBYB (103.9 Eldred PA) and classic rock “Mountain” WXMT (106.3 Smethport PA).
In Ithaca, Bristlecone Broadcasting has withdrawn a request to move translator W16AX to digital on channel 22. Instead, we hear the relay of Syracuse Fox affiliate WSYT (Channel 68/RF 19) will flash-cut from analog to digital on its existing channel 16 position at lower power.
*The news from the FCC on a holiday-shortened week included a bunch of new low-power FM construction permits from around the region. In upstate New York, that includes shiny new FMs for the Manlius Pebble Hill School (92.5 Dewitt) in the Syracuse market and for the Ibero-American Action League (97.1) and Rochester Community Television (100.9) here in Rochester.
*For many years, “Stan David” was the overnight voice supplying “Music While the City Sleeps” on WNYC-FM (93.9) in New York – 37 years, in all, from the 1960s into the 1990s, according to WNYC archivist Andy Lanset, who passes along the news that David (real name Stanley Distenfeld) died recently. Services for Distenfeld were held Wednesday in New York City.
*We’ve been remiss in sharing the VERMONT Association of Broadcasters’ award lineup for their upcoming annual banquet: the group’s three Hall of Fame inductees for 2014 are newsmen Tim Anderson of Brattleboro’s WTSA (and before that, WKVT from 1973-1997) and Jack LaDuke, longtime Adirondack bureau chief for WCAX-TV (Channel 3) and now contributor to WCFE (Channel 57) in Plattsburgh, along with Hall Communications (WBTZ/WIZN) sales manager Candis Leopold. Roger Hess, general manager at WVNY/WFFF-TV in Plattsburgh, will be named Broadcaster of the Year; WCAX chief photographer Jim Oliver will get the first-ever Teffner-Snyder Award for service behind the scenes (named for the engineers Dennis Snyder of WJOY and the late Ted Teffner of WCAX); and VAB Distinguished Service Awards will go to WCAX’s Judy Simpson and Thom Richards, recently retired from a long run at WOKO in Burlington. The awards will be handed out at the banquet December 6 at the Burlington Hilton.
There’s one new LPFM in Vermont this week: St. Francis Xavier Paris Charitable Trust gets the CP for 105.5 in Burlington.
*Three new LPFMs have CPs in NEW HAMPSHIRE: in Manchester, 95.3 goes to Manchester Public Television Service, while 101.7 goes to the St. Joseph Catholic Family Center. In nearby Bedford, 105.1 goes to the Town of Bedford.
*It’s mostly about LPFM in MASSACHUSETTS, too, including one on the North Shore, where Iglesia Christiana Torrente de Cedron gets 89.3 in Lynn. In Holyoke, 107.7 goes to the Word of Life Church of God, and out on Martha’s Vineyard, that “M&M Community Development” group that applied for a whole pile of LPFMs in both the 2003 and 2013 windows gets 105.5 in Oak Bluff for its “Oak Bluff Branch.”
On the AM dial, Steve Callahan sends along a picture of the work that’s underway at his WVBF (1530 Middleborough Center) – or rather, at the site that’s soon to become the new home of WVBF. He’s in the process of moving the station to the former site of the now-defunct WPEP (1570 Taunton), and the work includes the construction of a second tower (shown at left) at that longtime nondirectional site. (It turns out WPEP had made plans itself to put up a second tower at the site, once upon a time.)
When the work is all done, WVBF will jump from 2200 watts days (940 watts critical hours) to a full 5000 watts days, with much improved coverage of Taunton.
*Where Are They Now, CONNECTICUT edition: former WDRC-FM (102.9 Hartford) jock Floyd Wright has made the move to the noncommercial end of the dial, where he’s taking over afternoons on WJMJ (88.9 Hartford), the oldies/AC station run by the archdiocese of Hartford. Wright joins other former Big D personalities at WJMJ, including Jerry Kristafer and Dan Lovallo. Wright’s former boss at Buckley Radio, Eric Fahnoe, is also back in radio: the nephew of the late Rick Buckley served as GM of the Buckley Hartford cluster, and he’s now formed his own company, “Dimes Radio” (from his late grandfather’s middle name), which is buying stations in the lovely town of San Luis Obispo, California from Mapleton Broadcasting.
The Nutmeg State also got several LPFM CPs last week: the town of Enfield won a CP on 94.3, Manchester Community College won 103.3 in Manchester, the Society of the Missionaries of the Holy Apostles won 104.5 in Cromwell, and the Huckleberry Hill Musical Society will get to put 107.5 on the air in Collinsville.
A correction on last week’s item about Connoisseur’s move of the WFOX (95.9) city of license from Norwalk to Southport: it shifts the station from the Stamford-Norwalk market to Bridgeport, not to “New Haven,” as we erroneously reported. Either way, here’s one good reason why the shift might matter: while Stamford-Norwalk (if it even continues to exist as a market with no local subscribers) is an embedded slice of the larger New York City market, Bridgeport isn’t. Moving WFOX out of Stamford-Norwalk and thus out of “New York” reduces Connoisseur’s overall holdings in the market to six stations (two AM/four FM), all of them in the Nassau-Suffolk (Long Island) market that’s also embedded in New York. And that in turn gives Connoisseur room to add two more stations – and more critically, one more FM – if it can find more to buy on Long Island.
*Southern NEW JERSEY tends to lead the way each autumn when it comes to all-Christmas radio, and this year is no exception. WEZW (93.1 Wildwood Crest) is always at or near the front of the pack, and this year RadioInsight says it’s once again first in the nation with its seasonal flip from soft AC “Easy 93.1” to all-ho-ho-ho.
Just up the coast in Atlantic City, WAYV (95.1) has found a new “Mike” for its morning show. This time it’s Matt Kelso, former PD at WBBO (98.5) and WWZY (107.1), taking on the “Mike” half of the “Mike and Diane” show.
*An early warning to doctors who count radio historians among their patients: we’ll all be needing some extra blood pressure medication as we head toward November 2, 2020, when the media will light up with the “centennial of radio.” As you’ll hear us tell you over and over again in the next few years, there’s nothing Frank Conrad and Westinghouse did in western PENNSYLVANIA in 1919 and 1920 that wasn’t being done first and maybe even better elsewhere across the radio landscape – except, perhaps, to get publicity for the work they were doing.
Having said that, there’s no question that Conrad and the station he built, KDKA, were pioneers. And there’s no question at all that it was appalling that the Pittsburgh suburb of Wilkinsburg – a community whose entire municipal seal is all about being “the birthplace of radio,” for crying out loud – allowed Conrad’s home and garage to be torn down a decade ago, replaced by a Wendy’s. And so it was good news indeed that there’s finally action again toward rebuilding the garage, which has been a pile of bricks in storage for years now while Rick Harris’ National Museum of Broadcasting tries to find it a new home.
At an event last week, Conrad’s grandsons Jamie and David and veteran Pittsburgh DJ Jack Bogut joined Harris to unveil the historical marker that had been at the Penn Avenue site of the Conrad home. Harris says the new goal is to get the garage rebuilt at a new site by October 2019, the 100th anniversary of Conrad’s first broadcasts (under the calls 8XK), and to open a proper museum within it to honor Conrad’s role in early broadcasting.
*In Scranton, Steve Borneman is the new general manager at the Times Shamrock cluster (“Rock 107” WEZX, “Fuzz” WFUZ 92.1 and ESPN outlets WEJL/WBAX). Borneman was most recently Clear Channel’s leader at WOR (710) in New York, but he’s best known for his decades at WABC/WPLJ, where he worked under ABC Radio honcho Mitch Dolan, who’s now chief operating officer of the Times Shamrock stations.
Across town, it looks like another extended silence for WARM (590). The onetime giant of the Scranton market has been limping along for years now in an FM world, and since mid-September it’s been off the air completely. Keep in mind that owner Cumulus has more stations than anyone in America, and a staff full of very competent and talented engineers, too, as we offer you their verbatim explanation for the silence (all-caps, because that’s how the FCC CDBS system works):
“UNFORTUNATELY, THE ENGINEERS HAVE NOT BEEN ABLE TO DETERMINE PRECISELY WHY THE TRANSMITTER FAILED. AS MENTIONED IN ITS NOTIFICATION OF SUSPENSION OF OPERATIONS, THE TRANSMITTER IS QUITE OLD, SO, ONCE THE PROBLEM IS IDENTIFIED, IT MAY TAKE THE ENGINEERS SOME TIME TO OBTAIN THE PARTS NECESSARY TO REPAIR IT PROPERLY. ”
*One of the smallest “full-power” signals in the nation is about to get a translator. WPEB (88.1) serves part of west Philadelphia with just one watt – and so it will be a big upgrade when it gets on the seven watts of W236CL (95.1 Millbourne PA), which WPEB owner Scribe Video Center is buying from Denise Choi for a dollar. The new translator will broadcast from 48th and Baltimore, just across the street from WPEB’s own one mighty watt.
A correction to our Hockey on the Radio lineup last week: the Hershey Bears are in fact continuing on the same network that carried their games last year, based at WQIC (100.1 Lebanon) and also including WTKT (1460 Harrisburg) and WOYK (1350 York). WLPA (1490 Lancaster) appears to have dropped from the network this year.
There are two new LPFM CPs at opposite ends of the Keystone State: Grace of Calvary Baptist Church gets 107.9 in Erie, while Montgomery County gets 92.1 in Horsham.
*It was a holiday week in CANADA, too (happy belated Thanksgiving!), but there’s still a bit of news to report: in Montreal, Evanov has begun testing its new CHRF (980), which they hope to have on the air before the year is out as “Radio Fierte,” serving the gay and lesbian community in French.
In Leamington, Ontario, the CBC says it couldn’t get the transmitter site it wanted for its new Radio One signal on 88.7, so instead of 8180 watts max DA/2060 watts average ERP/78.9 meters, CBCL-1 will operate from a downtown rooftop with just 1320 watts/3.5 meters, non-directional.
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.
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 21, 2013
*After more than half a century, the Pacifica Foundation is preparing to exit the radio business in NEW YORK. It’s not a sale – at least not yet – of the massively valuable class B signal of Pacifica’s WBAI (99.5) in New York City, but Pacifica’s announcement that it’s searching for an LMA partner to operate WBAI signals that the latest set of troubles there may have been the death knell for local Pacifica programming there.
Pacifica’s request for proposals calls it a “Public Service Operating Agreement,” or “PSOA,” and if Pacifica can find a willing partner, that nonprofit will program WBAI, maintain a main studio for the station, provide office space for two Pacifica full-time staffers, and provide some space in the schedule for some Pacifica-provided programming, surrounding it with programming that will “serve programming interests otherwise unserved in the greater New York City area.”
But even as Pacifica’s national board is making plans to try to hand off WBAI to a new operator, local listeners to 99.5 are in the midst of a marathon pledge drive making no mention of the possible end to Pacifica’s programming – and it’s all happening without a studio (the station’s live shows are coming from borrowed space in Harlem at tiny WHCR) and now without the most recent interim PD, Andrew Phillips.
“We are on a wartime footing,” was Phillips’ message to staffers in an October 5 memo, warning that an LMA might be not only imminent but necessary in order to save the station in the long term. But while Phillips was trying to make WBAI’s morning programming more palatable to a larger audience and to minimize the use of pledge-centric programming like Gary Null’s medical show, Pacifica’s national programmers apparently had different ideas. On Thursday, Phillips reportedly sent a fiery e-mail to GM Berthold Reimers and interim national executive director Summer Reese complaining of being “blindsided” by a national mandate to run “Null’s bombastic mish-mash of warmed-up Pacifica fare” in morning drive.
“Where is the diginity?” he asked. “So this is what WBAI became?”
Whatever WBAI is in the process of becoming, it’s doing so without Phillips, who “has decided to move on,” according to a memo sent out by Reese later Thursday night.
*It’s looking all but certain, meanwhile, that the New York Mets have found a new radio home for 2014. The Daily News reported Friday that the team is close to finalizing a deal with Clear Channel’s WOR (710), and that the deal would not include an FM simulcast.
*There’s one fewer talk station in Portland, MAINE, where Saga quietly pulled the plug on its advice-talk format at WBAE (1490) early Sunday morning. The AM outlet is back to its former identity as “The Bay,” running Westwood One’s adult standards format.
*The talk landscape in eastern PENNSYLVANIA is about to be realigned with the impending demise of Merlin’s WWIQ (106.9 Camden NJ), and now we know where that station’s two biggest syndicated talkers are heading. Back in August, we wrote that we’d “be surprised if [Rush] Limbaugh doesn’t return to WPHT fairly quickly, giving the ailing AM talker a much-needed boost and probably reducing WPHT’s current hosts to three-hour shifts instead of their current four-hour daily shows.”
And sure enough, that’s just what’s happening, effective next Monday: Limbaugh will indeed be back in his old spot on CBS Radio’s WPHT (1210), reducing Dom Giordano to a 9 AM-noon shift, with three-hour slots as well for Dick Morris and Gary R’Nel (3-6 PM) and Rich Zeoli (6-9 PM). We were wrong, however, in guessing that Sean Hannity would be without a Philadelphia radio home: he’ll also join WPHT, on a six-hour delay that will find him running from 9-midnight when a Phillies game doesn’t pre-empt that slot.
Five Years Ago: October 19, 2009
*Univision Radio relaunched its NEW YORK FM presence Thursday morning, adopting new call letters and a new slogan to go with its $33.5 million move from its former FM home, “La Kalle” WCAA (105.9 Newark), to the more powerful signal on 96.3 that was long home to WQXR. As we told you last week, the WCAA calls made a temporary move down the dial to 96.3 on the night of October 8, when WQXR moved up to 105.9 under the ownership of public broadcaster WNYC. But the “La Kalle” slogan vanished in the move, and Univision’s frequent on-air exhortations to “mark your calendar with an X on October 15 at 6 AM” made it clear that something different was coming to the 96.3 frequency.
And as NERW first reported last week, that “something different” includes the calls WXNY – and a new slogan, “X96.3, La Mezcla de New York.” That translates roughly as “The Mix of New York,” and it comes with a format that’s not far different from the old “La Kalle” on 105.9. We’re not experts on the nuances of Spanish-language radio, but it seems to be described best as some mixture of “Spanish Tropical” and “rhythmic AC,” with some English-language dance tracks in there as part of the playlist, and with DJ banter that’s largely, but not entirely, in Spanish. So far, the new “X96.3” appears to be running jockless, except for the station’s star personality, the Luis Jimenez morning show.
Up north, St. Lawrence University’s North Country Public Radio has been granted a construction permit for a full-power signal in Lake Placid, winning out over competing applications from Albany’s WAMC and the Northeast Gospel Network. (As we reported back in December 2007, WAMC had agreed to drop its Lake Placid application in favor of NCPR.) The new 91.7 signal will replace NCPR’s present translator in Lake Placid, W219AK, which will apply to move to a new frequency and relay WAMC. And NCPR has signed on another new signal: WXLS (88.3 Tupper Lake) replaces a translator on 91.7 in that mountain community.
Here in Rochester, we’re mourning the loss of one of the original program hosts from the earliest days of WXXI-FM (91.5). Richard Gladwell was a part of the station almost from its start in late 1974, and his weekend choral music show, “With Heart and Voice,” continues to be offered to public radio stations nationwide. Gladwell had been diagnosed with brain cancer in June, and he died peacefully with family at his side at his Rochester home on Thursday, just short of his 89th birthday.
In MASSACHUSETTS, the deal to transfer classical WCRB-FM (99.5 Lowell) from Nassau to the WGBH Educational Foundation is moving forward. The contract for the $14 million sale is now at the FCC awaiting approval, and we noted a couple of unusual items as we read through it: it obligates WGBH to buy $100,000 of advertising on WCRB or other Nassau stations during the period before closing – and it includes a clause we’d never seen in a sale contract before, obligating Nassau to transfer WCRB’s Facebook and Twitter accounts to WGBH. (That clause, presumably, will soon become a standard feature of sale contracts.)
It’s been a bad year for broadcast history in CONNECTICUT, where two venerable TV studio buildings have fallen to the wrecking ball in the space of just a few months. The latest demolition is in West Hartford, at the 1953-vintage studios of NBC’s WVIT (Channel 30). The station is now settled in at its modern new home just behind the old studios off I-84 and New Britain Avenue, and last week its old digs were reduced to rubble.
One of the most enduring faces of TV news in VERMONT retired from the anchor desk last week. Marselis Parsons handed off his news director duties at WCAX-TV (Channel 3) to Anson Tebbetts in May, and on Thursday he signed off WCAX’s 6 PM newscast for the last time, inviting viewers to watch his successor, Darren Perron. Parsons started at Channel 3 as a reporter in 1967, and had been news director and evening anchor since 1984 – and we suspect both of those are, and will probably forever be, all-time longevity records in the region. In his retirement, Parsons will continue to file occasional stories from around Vermont for WCAX – and in the meantime, the station has put up a web page featuring all the video tributes it’s been offering for the longtime face of its news department.
Ten Years Ago: October 18, 2004
Add RHODE ISLAND to the list of states with Air America Radio affiliates – and on one of the market’s best signals, no less. If you were wondering (as we were) just how long it was going to take WHJJ (920 Providence) to replace the departed John DePetro in the midday slot, the answer came last week when WHJJ revamped its entire schedule. Don Imus stays in place in morning drive, and local host Arlene Violet in afternoons – but the formerly conservative talk station is now running Air America’s “Morning Sedition” on tape delay from 10 till noon, followed by a live clearance for Air America’s Al Franken. After Violet, WHJJ now has Air America’s Randi Rhodes on delay from 6-8 PM, followed by Geoff Charles (doing double duty after his shift on WHJJ’s sister station, rocker WHJY 94.1) from 8-10.
In MASSACHUSETTS, Boston University has named an interim general manager for WBUR following the departure of Jane Christo. Peter Fiedler, son of legendary Boston Pops conductor Arthur Fielder, comes from within – he’s an assistant vice president at BU, responsible for sports broadcasting, media services and publications.
With no NHL hockey in CANADA (or in the U.S., for that matter), radio stations are scrambling to replace the programming that big-league hockey would have provided. Toronto’s CFMJ (640) is carrying the Leafs anyway, broadcasting “classic” Leafs games on Saturday nights at 7.
And over in the Lindsay area, the CRTC denies Andy McNabb’s application for a religious station on 96.7, which would have been licensed to Kawartha Lakes (the megacity that now includes Lindsay.)
Fifteen Years Ago: October 16, 1999
The WMEX calls are apparently about to return to the Boston-area airwaves, at least based on the promos being heard on WJLT (1060 Natick). The 1060 signal holds an unbuilt CP to boost power to 40 kilowatts by day, 22 kilowatts at night, which could be a contender in the market — if it can ever get built as a diplex on the WKOX sticks in Framingham.
Meanwhile, what of the “J-Light” Christian contemporary format and WJLT calls? We hear those will be migrating down the dial to Ashland’s AM 650, now WRPT and also owned by Alex Langer (who leases 1060 to “J-Light” programmer Great Commission Broadcasting). This station also holds an unbuilt CP, which would boost power from 250 watts to 2000, transmitting from the WBPS (890) sticks in Ashland.
One more Langer note: His WSRO (1470 Marlborough), which has been running on low power from a temporary site since losing its three-tower area to a city land-taking, has modified its application for a new directional array. The new application calls for four towers, three by day with a 7kW signal aimed mostly northwest and three (two shared with the day array) at night, with a 5kW signal aimed east/southeast over Marlborough, Framingham, and Natick.
“And the dead air goes on!”: That might as well be the slogan at Brockton’s WCAV (97.7), now in its second week with a stereo pilot but no programming. Radio One’s new urban format is still expected…any…day…now.
WBZ (1030) isn’t getting out quite as well as it usually does during the day — but there’s a reason. Having cancelled plans to replace its two-tower array in Hull, the station is now busy repainting, repairing, and re-guying the existing sticks (vintage 1940) to last a few more decades. While the work continues (through December), WBZ is broadcasting from 8 AM until 4 PM daily from its 10kW non-directional backup site at the studio in Allston. Nights are still 50kw from Hull (but we wouldn’t know, since we’ve had our dials glued to 1080 to listen to the Sox play-by-play with the properly-biased hometown broadcast team via WTIC!)
Down in RHODE ISLAND, Carolyn Fox is embroiled in a non-compete battle with her old employer. WPRO (630) is going to court to force Fox off her new gig at WWRX (103.7). The Citadel-owned talker has already won a restraining order that took Fox off WWRX’s air effective Wednesday (10/13). Citadel says it fired Fox October 4 after she tried to persuade two other WPRO staffers to join her at WWRX. Her contract included a six-month noncompete clause. A hearing Monday will decide Fox’s fate; we’ll keep you posted.
Rochester’s WPXY-FM (97.9) has named a new program director. Mike Danger succeeds (we won’t say “fills the shoes of;” they’re too big!) Clarke Ingram, who’s now jammin’ the oldies at Pittsburgh’s WJJJ (104.7). We’ve heard ‘PXY using the “PX-Y2K” nickname a few times lately…
Chatham,Ontario’s commercial broadcaster has been busy as a beaver — pardon, a Bea-Ver. Bea-Ver Communications put CKUE (94.3) on the air last week, just days after the CRTC granted its construction permit. “The Rock @ 94-3” is already being heard as far east as London; we’ll be there next week to check it out. Bea-Ver has also won CRTC approval to boost night power on CFCO (630) to 6kW from 1kW.