In this week’s issue… TV pioneer dies – Big sale for little NYC signal – Cross-state sale for NJ pair – One Ontario FM goes as another arrives
The last links to the pioneering days of television in the Northeast are rapidly leaving us, and as we prepare to close the books on the last regular NorthEast Radio Watch column for 2014, there’s news that we’ve lost a very big one.
William Lowell Putnam III was the descendant of some very important New England families – his great-uncle Percival Lowell was a prominent astronomer whose Lowell Observatory was an important part of Putnam’s life – but he made his name in broadcasting in the earliest days of UHF television.
Fresh from service in World War II, a young Putnam lent his initials and his energy to the founding of Springfield’s first TV station (and New England’s first UHF outlet), which took his initials when it signed on in 1953 as WWLP-TV on channel 61.
Over the decades that followed, Putnam moved WWLP to its present channel 22, added (and then shut down) several relay stations, WRLP (Channel 32) in Greenfield and WWOR (Channel 14) in Worcester, and eventually took his Springfield Television group to new markets outside the region, most notably Dayton, Ohio and Salt Lake City.
And along the way, too, Putnam married his assistant, Katherine (Kitty) Flynn Broman, who ended up helping to run the company and lent her own initials to its Dayton station, WKEF (also on channel 22).
In 2012, the Putnams put down their stories in a joint memoir, “How We Survived in UHF Television.” By then, they’d long since sold WWLP and their other TV stations, and Putnam had turned his attention to other pursuits, including a passion for alpine skiing and climbing that began with his service in the 10th Mountain Division during World War II. Into his eighties, Putnam remained an avid climber, taking part in rescue missions for lost hikers in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. In his second home of Flagstaff, Arizona, Putnam served as sole trustee of the Lowell Observatory for a quarter of a century until passing the reins to his son, William IV, last year.
The Putnams were class acts all the way in the broadcasting world, and under their leadership WWLP and its sisters were exceptional television stations, deeply committed to local news and editorials and constantly involved in their communities. It’s a tribute to the reputation that Bill Putnam built that even after passing through the hands of several lesser owners in rapid succession, WWLP has remained a dominant force in its market for decades after his departure.
Kitty Broman Putnam died in January, at 97. Bill Putnam was 90 when he died on Saturday; a memorial service will be held December 27 in Springfield. (Read more from WWLP here.)
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The week’s other big story came from NEW YORK City, where we learned why Michael Celenza’s “Apple 107.1” has persevered for so many years in its efforts to squeeze a new translator into a very crowded dial. Why spend all that effort relocating what’s now W292DV (106.3) from New Jersey to Manhattan to Queens and down the dial from 107.1 to 106.5 to 106.3? How about 3.5 million reasons – the number of dollars John Bridge’s Big Apple Broadcasting has agreed to pay for the translator?
If $3.5 million seems like an awful lot to pay for four watts from Long Island City, consider that Bridge paid $1 million earlier this year for a Chicago translator, W280EM (103.9), which relaunches later this week with a smooth jazz format. The Chicago station covers most of the city from the Willis Tower; the New York translator, of course, tried to use Four Times Square before interference complaints from Press’ WKMK (106.3) down the Jersey Shore forced it to retreat to Queens and nearly forced the translator off the air entirely.
Will Bridge try again to move 106.3 into Manhattan? For the price he’s paying, we’d suspect he will – and, perhaps, that he’ll find a way to negotiate a deal to keep Press from quashing the move this time around. We’ll be watching closely to see what the next chapter in this translator’s story will be, and what Bridge will use as a parent signal. (Right now, it’s carrying Spanish religious Radio Cantico Nuevo via an HD subchannel of WVIP 93.5 New Rochelle.) We’ll also be looking to see what becomes of the other new translators poised to enter the New York FM landscape, especially that 4 Times Square 95.1 signal that Bridgelight hasn’t yet lit up. Will those signals find deep-pocketed buyers, too?
*Downtown at iHeart, there’s a change of command at the programming helm of Z100 (WHTZ 100.3 Newark). Sharon Dastur, who’s been PD there since 2006 (and spent a decade in other roles at the station before that), has been named iHeart’s “Senior VP of Program Integration,” where she will “create cutting-edge programs that leverage the company’s assets for brands and partners and will assist with the program execution with artist, managers and labels.” What does that mean? Think the “iHeart Radio Music Festival,” “Jingle Ball” and other big events, where Dastur will be working to create even more links between radio and music labels.
Z100’s first PD opening in eight years is being filled within the company, but from outside the market: Mark Medina, who’s been programming iHeart top-40 stations WIHT (99.5 Washington) and WZFT (104.3 Baltimore), moves up to take the Z100 job.
Bill Bonds was an iconic TV anchor in Detroit, where his broadcast career stretched from the late 1950s well into the 21st century, but in 1975 and 1976 ABC moved him from WXYZ-TV (Channel 7) in the Motor City to WABC-TV (Channel 7) in New York, where he was part of the “Eyewitness News” team before returning to Detroit. Bonds died Dec. 13 in his home in suburban Detroit; he was 82.
*Buffalo is one of the largest markets without any LPFM stations, and that apparently won’t be changing. Nearly a year after the FCC dismissed a 103.7 application from community redevelopment group Despensata Corp., the FCC has also dismissed a petition for reconsideration. At issue is the cross-border protection to CFBU, the Brock University station also on 103.7 over in St. Catharines, Ontario. Despensata (and its technical consultant, Harry Kozlowski) argued that the Buffalo LPFM should be required to protect only CFBU’s licensed class A1 signal, not the full class A facilities notified for the channel by Industry Canada. The FCC says even if it treated CFBU as an A1, Despensata’s application still would have been short-spaced; in the end, the result is that the second-largest city in New York gets no LPFM service while Rochester and Syracuse each get several.
Down the Thruway at the Pennsylvania border, the New York State Thruway Authority has asked the FCC to cancel WNYP-LP (98.7 Ripley), the little signal at the Exit 61 tollbooth that broadcast travel information.
*There’s an LPFM cancellation in VERMONT, too: the Vermont DOT has asked the FCC to delete WRAN-LP (100.1), which ran travel information from an I-89 rest stop in Randolph.
*DTV subchannels will be shifting in NEW HAMPSHIRE at the start of the new year: Bill Binnie’s WBIN (Channel 50) is dropping Local Weather Service from its 50.2 subchannel, replacing it with Antenna TV, branded locally as “WBIN Classics.” The new service will also have digital carriage on some Comcast systems and Verizon FiOS into the Boston market.
*In MASSACHUSETTS, we note the passing of Elby Hooker, who died Dec. 12 at age 88. Hooker spent 50 years in broadcast engineering, first at WBET in Brockton for 29 years and then 21 years at Boston’s channel 7, spanning all three of its identities as WNAC-TV, WNEV and WHDH-TV.
Mark down a callsign for the Global Ministries Christian Church’s LPFM in Dorchester: its piece of the 102.9 sharetime will be WBPG-LP.
*In CONNECTICUT, they’re mourning Jean Tucker, who was the state’s first female TV anchor when she moved from the Hartford Courant to WTIC-TV (Channel 3) in 1969. Tucker (later Jean Tucker Kravsow) went on to serve as channel 3’s editorial director and as an investigative reporter at the station, now WFSB. She died Dec. 21, at age 88.
Revival Christian Ministries is selling two of its translators: W252AV (98.3 Meriden) and W283BW (104.5 New London) go to Co-Channel Communications for $450,000.
*At the southern end of NEW JERSEY, WJKS (101.7 Canton) and WFAI (1510 Salem) are joining a cluster in the Delaware market that they serve. AllAccess reports Delmarva Broadcasting, which already owns WSTW (93.7) and WDEL (1150) in Wilmington, is paying QC Communications $3.25 million for the stations, which have been running urban AC on the FM (“Kiss 101.7”) and religion on the AM (“Faith 1510”). The stations have been operating from Wilmington studios for quite a while now, with only transmitters on the New Jersey side.
*A veteran PENNSYLVANIA broadcaster has died. Richard Heist worked for WBUD (1260) in Trenton, New Jersey and WPAZ (1370 Pottstown) before being hired in 1959 to build and run WNPV (1440 Lansdale), which launched in October 1960. Heist later ran an advertising agency and spent two years as operations manager of WBUX (1570 Doylestown) before retiring in 1978. He died Nov. 28 at age 82.
*There’s a new signal on the air in southern Ontario, CANADA. CKYY (89.1 Welland) began testing last week ahead of an early 2015 launch as “Country 89.” The new signal is a sister to RB Communications’ CIXL (91.7 Welland), and its country format picks up where CIXL’s AM predecessor, CHOW (1470), left off more than a decade ago.
North of Toronto, Frank Rogers’ silent CFAO (94.7 Alliston) is dead: the CRTC has denied Rogers’ renewal application, noting the station was silent for most of its most recent license term and has not been in compliance with the agency’s rules.
Quebec’s “Rhythme FM” is adding more affiliates in 2015: Canadian Radio News reports the Cogeco format will come to Attraction Media’s CILM (96.3 Chicoutimi) and CKGS (105.5 La Baie) in the Saguenay market February 9, followed by a March 9 launch on CHOA (96.5 Rouyn-Noranda) and two Abitibi FM relays.
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