In this week’s issue… CRTC slaps down Niagara simulcast – Tower down in Maine – NY FM reworks morning show – WARM’s back
*Broadcasters in the U.S. enjoy pretty free rein when it comes to what they program, who they simulcast and where they seek out ad dollars. But you only have to go a few miles across the border into CANADA for this week’s example of just how differently the rules work there.
The stations at the center of the CRTC’s wrath this week are Vista’s CFLZ (101.1 Fort Erie) and CJED (105.1 Niagara Falls), which have been simulcasting as “2Day FM” since September 2013 but waited until May 2014 to ask the agency for the license modifications that would make the simulcast legal. While “shoot first and ask questions later” may be a sound business strategy in some contexts, it doesn’t fly with the CRTC, which last week slapped Vista with some tough conditions in order to keep the 101.1 half of the simulcast on the air.
Here’s the problem: because the CRTC requires most licensees to provide a not-insignificant amount of local news specific to their communities, it’s nearly impossible for stations to both simulcast 24/7 and to meet those local news and programming requirements. Under the Broadcasting Act, stations that are local for less than 42 hours a week can’t solicit or accept local advertising within their communities.
After Vista acquired CFLZ and CJED through its purchase of the Haliburton group in 2012, it tells the CRTC that it found the Niagara Falls-based stations were “in disrepair, understaffed, had virtually no presence in the market, and were not operating on a financially sustainable basis,” making the simulcast necessary on a temporary basis. Its May application requested CRTC permission to retain the simulcast until the end of CFLZ’s license term, waiving the 42-hour rule for local ad sales while meeting a license term requiring three hours of local news each week.
But the CRTC was in no mood to reward Vista. Writing that the financial problems at CJED/CFLZ already existed when Vista bought the stations, the CRTC denied the license amendments. Instead, it told Vista that it has only until this Thursday to return local programming to 101.1, with a detailed report on how compliance will be assured – or, failing that, to submit an application by January 26, 2015 to convert CFLZ into a “rebroadcasting transmitter” of CJED.
Assuming Vista chooses that latter option, as seems likely, it will be able to legally simulcast the two overlapping FM signals all the time. But it also won’t be able to solicit or accept advertising in Fort Erie, ending just under 30 years of local radio operation in that community just across the Niagara River from Buffalo. Local Fort Erie radio started in 1986 when CJFT (530) took to the air, diplexed with then-sister CJRN (710); later on, CJFT moved to 101.1 as CJFT-FM, CKEY and eventually CFLZ. The station has been under CRTC scrutiny in the past, especially a decade or so ago when its then-owners struck a deal with the Cumulus cluster across the river in which much of 101.1’s programming was coming from Buffalo. If CFLZ becomes a “rebroadcasting transmitter” of the 105.1 signal 20 miles or so to the north, Fort Erie advertisers will effectively be shut out of radio – and does that serve the community very well, either?
(One more note before we leave “2Day FM” – Canadian Radio News’ Dan Sys reports that back in September, Vista put the “2Day” branding on CHGK 107.7 in Stratford, too.)
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Season two of “Top of the Tower” offered you several preview editions during the NAB Show last month in Las Vegas – and now we’re (finally!) back to regular weekly editions. Join host Scott Fybush and a wide variety of industry insiders every Wednesday for interesting conversation about what’s happening in the business of radio and TV, not to mention programming, engineering and the newsroom.
Find “Top of the Tower” on all your favorite podcast platforms or right here at fybush.com – and check out our Season 1 Archives, too!
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: December 16, 2013
*One of the rules that everyone knows about radio is that when you have a brand that works, you don’t change it. If everyone in New York identifies “1010 WINS” with news, or if everyone in Boston knows that “Kiss 108” is the place to turn for hits, you leave those brands alone and let them keep doing what they do, for close to 50 years in the case of WINS and more than 35 in the case of Kiss.
But as with so many “rules” of radio, someone forgot to tell PENNSYLVANIA‘s Jerry Lee, who surprised the entire industry on Thursday with the announcement that he’s rebranding his WBEB (101.1 Philadelphia) from “B101” to “More FM” right after Christmas.
It’s not a format change – the station will still be playing a fairly hot brand of adult contemporary – and it’s not coming with any changes in air talent, nor is it bringing a return to streaming the station’s audio. So why turn “B” into “More”? Because, as one radio industry observer joked, Jerry Lee is that rare breed of owner who “doesn’t even change the color temperature of the studio light bulbs without focus-grouping it.”
Lee’s not sharing the specific perceptual research that drove this upcoming change, but it’s not hard to guess what his research told him: while “B” was a young, fresh brand when he rolled it out 20 years ago, the 25-54 listener base of 1993 is now 45 to 74 years old, and today’s 101.1 isn’t playing much Lionel Richie or Celine Dion. If that’s the association younger listeners have with “B” in 2013, the logic goes, then it’s time for a change.
That’s nothing new for Jerry Lee: he rebranded the station originally known as WDVR as WEAZ, “EZ101,” in the 1980s when the “EZ” brand was big, and then he abandoned “EZ101” for “B” when “EZ” began to seem stale a decade later. It’s not even the first time he’s made a move that suggests “B” is getting long in the tooth: in 2007, Lee bought the Philadelphia rights to the “Fresh” imaging that was sweeping the hot-AC universe, though the move turned out to be more about keeping any Philly competitors from becoming “Fresh” than about using the name on 101.1.
Will Jerry Lee win again this time? A lot of good broadcasters have bet against him in the past and lost badly. We’d be surprised if WBEB (which hasn’t yet filed for new calls) isn’t still at or near the top of the ratings a year from now.
*The big news once again from New York City last week came from Clear Channel and WOR (710), which followed up its introduction of a new logo (not coincidentally, in Mets blue-and-orange, since WOR will be the new Mets flagship) with the big reveal of its finalized 2014 schedule.
As we reported in a NERW update last Monday morning, the big surprise was Clear Channel’s decision to bring Elliot Segal back to town with his “Elliot in the Morning” show. After a stint in the 1990s as part of Elvis Duran’s morning crew at Clear Channel’s Z100 (WHTZ), Segal headed off to Washington’s WWDC-FM (DC101), where he’s become a morning fixture.
When Elliot comes to WOR to begin originating his show from New York in January, he’ll still be heard on DC101 and on WRXL (102.1) in Richmond, Virginia, which will be awfully interesting on mornings after the Mets face off against their NL East rivals, the Washington Nationals. How will Elliot balance his presence on FM rock stations in Washington and Richmond with the talk lineup that will follow him on WOR? We’re betting the instruction from up above is, “make it sound like FM,” in hopes of bringing a younger audience to replace WOR’s current aging demographic.
To that end, longtime WOR midday staple Joan Hamburg is being sent off to weekends, while in the afternoons Rita Cosby vanishes from the schedule completely after the New Year. Instead, after Elliott and Mark Simone (9-noon), the new weekday WOR lineup will include Rush Limbaugh at noon, Sean Hannity at 3, Andy Dean at 6 and Dave Ramsey at 9, at least on days when the Mets aren’t playing.
*In RHODE ISLAND, the official word from Cumulus talker WPRO (630 Providence)/WEAN (99.7 Wakefield-Peace Dale) is that talker John DePetro was on vacation last week…but when the only public statement DePetro was issuing on his website was a PDF of a statement written by his lawyer, it was clear something was brewing around the controversial host.
DePetro’s been facing static from the left since he used the terms “union hags” and “whores” (spelled out, just in case) while criticizing a protest by public employees over proposed pension overhauls; in doing so, he touched the nerves of some powerful unions, which have banded together to fund an unusually well-organized protest against the host. By Friday, that protest had evolved into a boycott, with current governor Lincoln Chafee, his potential Republican opponent Ken Block, the mayors of Providence and Cranston and several other public officials all saying they won’t appear on any WPRO show if DePetro’s still with the station.
DePetro, meanwhile, says he was threatened with physical violence outside the station; his lawyer’s statement says “attempts to suppress the free expression of speech…is [sic] antithetical to the United States Constitution.” Will he be back behind the WPRO microphone this week? Stay tuned…
Five Years Ago: December 14, 2009
WEDNESDAY UPDATE: Sad news this morning from Pittsburgh, where KDKA (1020) reports the death of its veteran talk host Fred Honsberger. “Honz” died this morning at his home in the Pittsburgh suburb of Monroeville. He was just 58, and had been at KDKA for 30 years. We’ll have a complete obituary in Monday’s NERW.
There’s a tower down in upstate New York. Tower crews were working on the 400′ tower of WRCE (1490 Watkins Glen) Monday afternoon when the 41-year-old structure collapsed, killing one worker, Dirk Remington, 46, of Clyde.
A longtime AM voice in southeastern PENNSYLVANIA has fallen silent. Great Scott Broadcasting, which has owned WPAZ (1370 Pottstown) since Herb Scott put the station on the air back in 1951, abruptly pulled the little local AM station off the air Thursday, putting four full-time staffers and two part-timers out of work without notice. Mitchell Scott, son of the station’s founder, told the Pottstown Mercury that the station no longer fit with the rest of his company, which is based in Maryland, several hours away – but that he hopes to find a buyer who can get the station back on the air. It’s listed with Pittsburgh-based broker Ray Rosenblum for sale.
Sports radio listeners in central NEW YORK are in for a change next spring, when Ed Levine’s Galaxy group takes over the ESPN Radio affiliation currently held by Citadel’s WNSS (1260 Syracuse). Starting March 5, 2010, ESPN will move to the new “ESPN Radio 97.7 and 100.1” in Syracuse and Oswego, and to Galaxy’s “Game” trio in Utica (WTLB 1310 Utica/WRNY 1350 Rome/WIXT 1230 Little Falls). Those FM frequencies aren’t full-power stations – they’re translators W249BC (97.7 Mattydale) and W259AX, which is being moved into Oswego, and they’ll be relaying Galaxy’s AM stations in the market, WTLA (1200 North Syracuse) and WSGO (1440 Oswego), which have been doing satellite-fed standards. In addition to ESPN’s national programming, the Galaxy stations will expand on the Syracuse University sports content already being heard on Galaxy’s “TK99” (WTKW 99.5 Bridgeport/WTKV 105.5 Oswego), with additional coverage of SU sports.
And one more development: Galaxy’s little daytimer up north, WSCP (1070 Sandy Creek), which has been relaying “TK99 & TK 105,” will flip to ESPN Deportes Spanish-language sports…and as one wag points out, the new format will indeed serve listeners in Mexico. (Mexico, Oswego County, New York, that is.)
So what happens to WNSS? The local Brent Axe afternoon sports-talk show will continue, reports CNYRadio.com, and additional programming announcements will follow next year. (Fox Sports Radio is probably off the table, since it’s already heard on Clear Channel’s WHEN 620.)
And speaking of the Oswego stations, we’re sorry to report the passing of their longtime owner. Bob Gessner bought WSGO back in 1971, put WSGO-FM (now WTKV) on the air a few years later, and ran the stations as paragons of small-town local radio for a quarter of a century. Under Gessner’s leadership, the stations moved to their current transmitter location off Route 481 in 1989, when the FM station took on the new calls WGES. Gessner’s earlier career had included station management and ownership downstate, including a stint at New York’s WCBS and the founding of WBNR (1260 Beacon), which he operated with Sy and Alfred Dresner (yes, “Gessner and Dresner”). Gessner retired in 1996 when he sold the Oswego stations to Galaxy. He died Dec. 5 in Kissimmee, Florida, at the age of 86.
In Hamilton, CING (95.3) has a new nickname for its 70s-pop format. It’s now “Vinyl 95.3,” and it’s not quite jockless anymore: former CFTR (680 Toronto) jock Bob Saint has been heard pulling airshifts at the Corus classic hits outlet.
Ten Years Ago: December 13, 2004
MASSACHUSETTS – and the nation – lost one of the great ones last week.
Since 1976, David Brudnoy had entertained, educated and, often, irritated audiences on WHDH (850), WRKO (680) and – starting in 1986 – the 50,000-watt night signal of WBZ (1030 Boston). In 1994, Brudnoy came to the nation’s attention when he revealed that he was suffering from AIDS. After a viral infection related to the disease put him in a coma for nine days and kept him off the air for ten weeks, Brudnoy returned to the air with a reduced shift (7-10 PM instead of 7-midnight), a new studio (in the library of his Back Bay home) and a profile raised by appearances on national TV and the publication of his memoirs, Life is Not A Rehearsal.
Brudnoy’s illnesses continued to take him off the air occasionally in recent years, but it quickly became clear that his latest absence, which began on December 1, was a serious one. Last Wednesday, Brudnoy gave an interview to WBZ anchor Gary LaPierre in which he announced that his Merkel cell carcinoma had spread to his liver and kidneys and that he did not expect to live more than a few days. Wednesday night’s Brudnoy show, hosted by former WBZ personality and close Brudnoy friend Peter Meade, took the form of an on-air wake, with Brudnoy listening from his room at Massachusetts General Hospital as politicians, authors and average listeners called in to say how much Brudnoy had meant to them. At 6:11 the following night, Brudnoy succumbed to his cancer. He was 64.
There was other news, in MASSACHUSETTS and elsewhere, ill-equipped as we were to deal with it in the face of the sad news from WBZ. Over at sister station WODS (103.3 Boston), veteran New England programmer Pete Falconi (late of Worcester’s WXLO) takes over as music director and midday host, filling the shoes of the departed Sandy Benson.
In yet another corner of the Infinity Boston cluster, the changing of the guard continued at WBCN (104.1 Boston), where afternoon jock Nik Carter, one of the last remaining veterans of the Oedipus era at the rock station, is out of a job, with his contract not being renewed and no replacement named just yet.
On any other week, the sudden death of a veteran upstate NEW YORK morning man would have been our lead story, and we’re saddened indeed to have to report the passing of WBEE (92.5 Rochester)’s Bill Coffey. Bill started at WBEE in 1988, not long after the station flipped to country, and he held down mornings there until he was forced to return to his native southeastern Pennsylvania to care for his ailing father.
Three years later, the departure of his successor, Fred Horton (now in Erie, Pennsylvania at WXTA) created an opening at WBEE, and thanks to the modern miracle of ISDN, Bill was once again hosting the “Coffee Club,” this time from the comfort of his home in Glenmoore, Pennsylvania. The show worked, though, thanks to local co-host (and WBEE veteran) Terry Clifford and frequent visits to Rochester by Coffey. After a show last Monday that went without a hitch, the staff at WBEE was shocked to get a phone call later in the morning saying that Bill had suffered a heart attack, collapsed and died. He was just 56; he leaves behind his wife, Barbara, and three children.
Fifteen Years Ago: December 11, 1999
We begin this week’s news in western NEW YORK, and we begin with an obituary. John Otto, the talk host credited with pioneering the form in the region, died early Monday morning at Buffalo General Hospital of emphysema.
Otto’s broadcast career began at the old WBNY (1400) in Buffalo at the tender age of 19. After two years in the Navy, Otto spent the rest of his five-decade tenure in Buffalo radio, most of it with WGR (550), where his “Extension 55” and “Night Call” were the city’s best-known talk shows in the 1960s and 70s. Otto took a detour to WWKB (1520) for a few years in the mid-80s, then returned to WGR for the rest of his career. For the past year, Otto did his 10PM-1AM shift from his home, as his health deteriorated and he became unable to get to the WGR studios. In 1998, Otto was named to the Buffalo Broadcast Pioneers’ Hall of Fame.
Otto was hospitalized last weekend after suffering a fall at home. As news of his death spread Monday morning, the response was immediate from across the Buffalo media community, exemplified by WBEN’s Sandy Beach: “We have lost our teacher.” WGR devoted its Monday and Tuesday night shows to remembrances of Otto. John Otto was 70 years old.
In other news from the Empire State, there’s now a format war in Rochester — in adult standards, of all things! Just like it did in Dallas and Denver this fall, Crawford Broadcasting has dropped the religious format from WDCZ (990) in Rochester, replacing it with a locally-generated (or at least very slickly voice-tracked) standards format as “Legends 990,” WLGZ(AM), complete with PAMS jingles. The religion continues on WDCZ-FM (102.7 Webster). WLGZ goes head-to-head with dial neighbor WEZO (950), whose standards format is entirely satellite-delivered, not to mention pre-empted by Spanish nightly from 7-9 PM.
For those keeping score, this is callsign number six (WNYR, WEZO, WRMM, WCMF, WDCZ, WLGZ) and format number eight for 990 in the twenty years it’s been on that frequency. (Boston-area listeners might want to check WLGZ out at night; its directional signal comes in very nicely in and around the Hub!)
In MASSACHUSETTS, Citadel begins filling the gaps between its New Hampshire cluster (ex-Fuller-Jeffrey) and its Connecticut/Rhode Island stations (ex-Tele-Media and Spring) with a $24.5 million purchase of Montachusett Broadcasting’s WXLO (104.5 Fitchburg) and WORC-FM (98.9 Spencer). WXLO’s huge signal reaches from southern New Hampshire across central Massachusetts (east as far as Boston) and into Connecticut and Rhode Island. Classic rock WORC-FM is a much more limited signal, serving southern Worcester County and not much else. The sale pretty much completes the mega-grouping of Worcester, with WTAG and WSRS in Clear Channel (ex-Capstar, ex-AMFM) hands and WAAF part of Entercom. (And it’s not even the highlight of Citadel’s week; that would be the 9-station, 9-figure purchase of Liggett’s Michigan clusters…)
No more Tone-Loc? WBOT (97.7 Brockton) has unveiled its permanent format, and no, it’s not “All Dead Air,” either. “Wild 9-7-7” made its debut Monday night as “Boston’s New Home for Hip-Hop and R&B,” taking dead aim at WJMN (94.5) and WILD (1090) with a signal that at least does a decent job of covering the city’s black neighborhoods, even if it does leave something to be desired to the north and west. Programming, at least for now, is being directed out of Radio One’s WERQ (92.3) in Baltimore.
Say goodbye to one NEW HAMPSHIRE station: Notre Dame College in Manchester has returned the license of WRND (91.7) to the FCC, and the calls have been deleted. WRND went silent in 1997, and last year began simulcasting public radio WEVO (89.1 Concord). Notre Dame dropped its journalism program this year, and the radio station went away as well.
We heard CANADA’s newest AM station using its calls this week. CINF (690 Montreal) is getting ready for next Tuesday’s launch as “Info 690,” and the signal both day and night in Rochester sounds an awful lot like that of the old CBF from its Brossard, Quebec transmitter site — but it’s not! A last-minute message from Sheldon Harvey up in Montreal informs us that 690 is diplexing off the CIQC (600) site, while English sister “940 News” (whose calls will in fact be CINW, not the previously-announced CKNN) is diplexing off French-language CKVL (850)’s towers a few miles to the east. Weekday programming on CIQC and CKVL wrapped up with Friday’s shows, and weekend programming will conclude Sunday, with Monday being a dark day on all four frequencies before Tuesday’s 11 AM launch of Info 690 and 940 News. Simulcasts will reportedly continue on 850 and 600 for up to six months.