In this week’s issue… Philly deal heads for the closing line – Two new FMs on Long Island? – NJ FM seeks upgrade – WARM files for downgrade
*One of the bigger recent radio deals in PENNSYLVANIA is expected to close today, adding two more FM signals to CBS Radio’s Philadelphia group while sending a third AM to Beasley Broadcasting.
The swap of CBS’ WIP (610) for Beasley’s WXTU (92.5) and WRDW-FM (96.5) is just part of a bigger deal that also finds CBS getting Beasley’s WQAM (560), WPOW-FM (96.5) and WKIS (99.9) in Miami-Ft. Lauderdale and Beasley getting CBS Radio’s clusters in Tampa and Charlotte.
Much as we’d love to be “Miami Radio Watch” right now, our focus is on the Philadelphia piece of this deal, and here’s how it looks like things will shake out once the paperwork is all signed this week:
Beasley’s purchase of the 610 facility doesn’t include the WIP callsign or the current CBS Sports Radio format, which has basically just been filler anyway ever since CBS moved the WIP local sports format over to WIP-FM (94.1) a few years back. Instead, 610 will change calls to WTEL, restoring a callsign that was used for seven decades on what’s now Beasley’s WWDB (860 Philadelphia). Is more leased time in store for a cluster that’s already leasing out its other two AMs? WWDB offers a motley lineup of ethnic talk and infomercials, but it does appear to be sold out in its limited daytime-only schedule, so we’d suspect some of those clients will be offered additional hours on the new WTEL 610. Will some religion move down the dial from Beasley’s WTMR (800 Camden NJ), too?
Over on the CBS side, it appears that early rumors about a format flip at WRDW-FM are unfounded. We already knew that CBS wasn’t going to touch top-rated country station WXTU (92.5), but speculation was running high that the “Wired” rhythmic top-40 format on 96.5 was headed for the exit, to be replaced by a simulcast of all-news KYW (1060). But despite KYW’s signal problems in parts of the Philly metro and the handicap these days of being on AM in general, all indications now are that KYW will remain AM-only after the Beasley deal closes, showing that CBS still believes it can generate significant ratings and revenue on the AM dial in Philadelphia just as it does with New York’s WCBS and WINS, Boston’s WBZ and Los Angeles’ KNX.
That, in turn, means some form of top-40 stays in place on 96.5. Our sister site RadioInsight has discovered that CBS has already built a new “Wired 96.5” web presence on its own servers, so the name comes along from Beasley as well. Will the new year bring a reboot of top-40 across three big CBS signals that are struggling with the format right now? We’d expect at least some synergy among Wired in Philly, “AMP 92.3” (WBMP) in New York and “AMP 103.3” (WODS) in Boston – and we still wouldn’t rule out a name change to “AMP” in Philadelphia as well.
We’re also looking closely to see where everyone lands, physically. While CBS will take over the lease on Beasley’s studio space in suburban Bala Cynwyd, it will sublet the AM studios back to Beasley. It’s not clear yet whether Wired and WXTU will stay put there, move to the recently-vacated Bala space that had been home to CBS’ WOGL (98.1) and WPHT (1210), or whether the new FMs will head for Center City to share space in the new WOGL/WPHT digs at 400 Market Street in former KYW space.
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*In other PENNSYLVANIA news, we now know what Cumulus has in mind for its rebuild of WARM (590 Scranton): it’s applied to the FCC to downgrade what was once a flamethrowing 5,000 watt signal to 1800 watts by day, 430 watts at night.
While rumors had been swirling that the land under the five-tower WARM array was destined for sale, the application calls for keeping the station at its longtime home in Falls, west of Clarks Summit near the Susquehanna River. Two of the five towers at the Falls site would come down, and the remaining three-tower array would put out a modified figure-eight pattern. Even at reduced power, the 590 frequency is clean enough around the market that all of Scranton and most of Wilkes-Barre would keep interference-free night service.
Kristin Cantrell’s Seven Mountains Media is adding to its holdings in central Pennsylvania: she’s buying oldies “Wheels” WLZS (106.1 Beaver Springs) and country WJUN-FM (92.5 Mexico) from Starview Media for $650,000 cash. Seven Mountains recently bought two clusters in State College. Cantrell, as we’ve noted previously, is the daughter of Forever Broadcasting head Kerby Confer; Starview keeps WJUN (1220 Mexico), which is doing sports.
Bob Conners started his career in Pennsylvania, working at WJET in Erie in the early 1950s, then bouncing westward to San Diego (KSON, KDEO) after Army service before landing at WEEP in Pittsburgh in the early 1960s. From there, he went back to Columbus, Ohio, where he’d attended (the) Ohio State University – and in Columbus he became a market legend at WTVN (610), where his 37-year run included 33 years in morning drive. Conners died last week in Florida, at age 80.
*The newest FM station serving VERMONT is changing hands. When Jeff Shapiro’s Vertical Capital Partners had to unload what’s now WECM (104.3 Keeseville NY), the station was still called WWOD and was still in its original home across the state in Hartford (White River Junction), where it took Shapiro’s cluster over the ownership caps. So Shapiro sold it to Bill Goddard’s Electromagnetic Company, with an option to repurchase the signal if it became possible to do so – say, by moving it over to the Burlington market, as Goddard did last month. And now Shapiro has indeed filed to bring 104.3 back into his fold, as part of his Great Eastern Radio group.
Instead of a cash price, Electromagnetic will walk away with 6.4% equity in Great Eastern; we’d expect new calls along with a new format once 104.3’s “Ho Ho” all-Christmas stunting ends. How will a Great Eastern standalone compete in a market that’s already crowded with two big clusters (Hall’s four FMs and one AM and Vox’s three FMs and one AM) and smaller players such as Steve Silberberg’s stations and Red Wolf’s standalone WTNN (97.5 Bristol)? Or will this become an opportunity for Shapiro to team up once again with his old partner in the original Vox group, Bruce Danziger, whose Burlington cluster could fit one more station under the cap?
*In northern MAINE, religious WFST (600 Caribou) is recovering from a dramatic crash a week ago. A car slammed through the front window of the station early Saturday morning, scattering desks and equipment in the WFST offices before apparently backing out and driving away. The driver left a license plate at the scene, and police say that made it easy to catch Christy Paul, who still had papers from the WFST office stuck in the grill of her car when police showed up at her house.
She’s been charged with leaving the scene of a accident, driving to endanger, and criminal mischief. The station says it thinks her car may have been airborne for 25 feet or more as she flew off the end of the Caribou bypass across Sweden Street and into the station; it’s back on the air while it repairs the building and while station officials look into getting some concrete barriers across from the end of the bypass.
(And fortunately, nobody was inside the station that late at night, so nobody was hurt in the crash.)
In the Augusta market, Light of Life Ministries continues to upgrade its translator lineup: it’s applying to move W233BE from 94.5 to 94.3, raising power to 250 watts as a relay of WMDR (1340), on whose tower the translator is located.
*In western MASSACHUSETTS, the latest chapter of the never-ending Brian Dodge soap opera finds that the FCC has quietly rescinded the grants of licenses to cover for two of the low-power FMs with which he’s apparently involved. WCCV-LP (97.9, or maybe 97.7) in Williamsburg and WDOE-LP (97.5 Westhampton) had their license grants pulled back in early November, in a move the FCC reported only through a public notice without sending a letter. Licensees “Citizens for a Better Hilltowns” and “Hilltown Christmas Stocking” both responded with some of the briefest “petitions for reconsideration” we’ve ever seen:
“NO REASON WAS GIVEN! WE CALL CONTACTS AT FCC AND NO ONE GAVE AN ANSWER ”
We don’t know, either, why the Commission rescinded those two grants in particular. Did the FCC catch on to what we reported back in April about the blatant attempt to skirt the “one-LPFM-to-a-customer” rule? And if so, what about the other six LPFM grants that went to Dodge-related front groups last spring? The FCC has been inconsistent, at best, in cracking down on Dodge’s long string of questionable operation in the region, a history that dates back more than 20 years now, and this latest rescission of license grants is just one more chapter in that long story. As always, we’ll be here watching.
On Cape Cod, iHeart has replaced the antenna at WCIB (101.9 Falmouth), taking the classic hits station directional and cutting its power from 50 kW to 13 kW. Early reports indicate that the signal on the Cape is (as expected) largely unchanged, but WCIB is now a much harder catch in the rest of southeastern Massachusetts and over toward Providence.
The move is, of course, part of the three-way shuffle that will also significantly downgrade WWBB (101.5 Providence) so that Boston-market WBWL (101.7 Lynn) can go non-directional with less adjacent-channel interference.
(That photo comes courtesy of Mike Fitzpatrick at NECRAT.us, who has more pictures of the new iHeart antennas at his site!)
*In NEW JERSEY, there could soon be more power coming from the top of the historic Alpine Tower, the birthplace of FM radio in the United States. Only one full-power FM signal makes its licensed home there, Fairleigh Dickinson University’s WFDU (89.1 Teaneck), and it’s long been the weaker half of an FM sharetime arrangement. Across the Hudson, New York University’s WNYU (89.1 New York) occupies the frequency from 4 PM until 1 AM weekdays with a class B1 (8.3 kW/256′) signal – but when WFDU is on the air the rest of the week, it’s running at class A levels, just 550 watts/499′ from Alpine. But that may change soon: WFDU filed an application last week that would bump it across the B1 line as well, running 3 kW/626′ from Alpine. That extra power would go into a directional antenna similar to the current version, with no increase in signal to the north and west but a considerable expansion southeastward toward Manhattan and into northern Queens and Nassau.
*What was Bob McAllan’s PMCM group giving thanks for last week? We’d bet a big part of it was a the ruling on Wednesday from a federal appeals court in Washington that indefinitely stayed the FCC’s order that would have moved the virtual channel of NEW YORK-market WJLP from 3 to 33. PMCM had already obtained a temporary stay that allowed WJLP to use virtual “3.10” after taking the station dark for a few days earlier in November; it says the latest stay means WJLP “will remain on Channel 3 for the foreseeable future,” though it’s not clear whether PMCM can now begin negotiating to get the MeTV outlet on more cable and satellite providers.
The engineering team at WABC-TV (Channel 7) in New York is covering all its bases: while ABC tells the FCC that it’s still “evaluating its options with respect to the best location to serve its viewers,” it’s updating a 2008 application for new facilities back at 1 World Trade Center. Instead of the 5.65 kW it’s presently allowed to use if it chooses to move south to 1WTC, channel 7’s new proposal calls for 34 kW at the Trade Center site, the same power it’s currently using from the Empire State Building. As we exclusively reported a few weeks back, WABC has applied for special temporary authority to test on channel 12 from 1WTC so that it and the market’s other VHF stations can determine whether they’d be better off there or staying put on Empire. (And since this is in no small part a business decision as much as a technical one, we’d also note that WABC-TV is the only legacy VHF station in New York with an existing business relationship with 1WTC’s landlord, the Durst Organization, since it has backup facilities on Durst’s 4 Times Square tower.)
Out on Long Island, John Fuller’s Red Wolf Broadcasting made a bold move last week, applying for two new full-power FM signals to fill out the dial on the East End. Both 94.5 in Sagaponack and 103.3 licensed to Shelter Island would be class A signals, and Red Wolf’s applications would put both of them on the same tower as long-established WLNG-FM (92.1 Sag Harbor), with 5.6 kW on 94.5 and 5.3 kW on 103.3 diplexed into an antenna at 338′ above average terrain.
If we understand the FCC’s current FM rules clearly (and we might not!), Red Wolf’s applications for those new allocations should trigger an eventual auction, at which Fuller might or might not end up as the winner. If he does, the new 94.5 and 103.3 will join an existing Red Wolf signal on the East End, news-talk WJJF (94.9 Montauk) as well as his substantial cluster across Long Island Sound in the New London/Norwich market.
Red Wolf’s opportunity here appears to come courtesy of another CONNECTICUT broadcaster, Sacred Heart University, which finally dropped its last attempt to move its WSUF (89.9 Noyack) up the dial to first 103.3 and then to 94.5. The FCC had turned down those proposals, and SHU told the Commission over the sunmer that it had changed its plans and no longer wanted to pursue a reconsideration of its decision. If 103.3 does end up as a full-power East End channel, it will displace SHU’s powerful East End translator, W277AB (103.3 Noyack), but that’s OK: SHU has a CP to move that signal to 107.5.
Up north, Steve Silberberg’s Montpelier Broadcasting has applied for a license to cover for its newest translator, W242BS (96.3 Plattsburgh). The 62-watt signal (from the tower behind the WCFE-TV studios on Sesame Street near I-87) will relay WTWK (1070 Plattsburgh), which, when we last heard it last month, was just a satellite feed of Bloomberg Radio without even any local IDs.
Near Utica, Lifepoint Church of the Mohawk Valley is on the air with its new LPFM, WHIH-LP (97.3 Whitesboro).
In Albany, Townsquare’s WTMM-FM (104.5 Mechanicville) is adding “Lupica,” Mike Lupica’s 1-3 PM weekday sports show that originates at WEPN-FM (98.7 New York).
Over at Albany Broadcasting, WAJZ (96.3 Voorheesville) morning guy/former PD Jaleel Williams has departed. The son of another former “Jamz” PD, Ron “Sugarbear” Williams, “J. Will” will be replaced by afternoon jock Danie B – and that means the station is now trying to fill an afternoon opening.
Dennis Jackson’s Vineyard Public Radio is trying again for more power on its WQCD (90.1 South Salem); the little signal near Danbury, Connecticut would go from 440 watts at 43 feet below average terrain to 130 watts/134′ from a tower at a golf course near the I-84/I-684 interchange.
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