In this week’s issue… Two public media leaders depart, one voluntarily – Remembering Lowell “Bud” Paxson, Scott Dosztan and Nick “Bazoo” Ferrara – Oldies to Spanish in the Hudson Valley – New LPFMs in New England

By SCOTT FYBUSH

Jump to: MENHVTMARICTNYNJ PACanada

*2014-yirtopWhat were last year’s top ten stories in NERW-land? We counted them down in our big Year in Review package – and if you missed it over the holidays, you can catch up with all six parts of our coverage right here. And if you’re still staring at a blank space on the wall where a 2015 calendar should be, we’re here to help – they’re shipping daily from our Fybush.com Store!

*Our news this week begins with a pair of stories about public broadcasting leaders, one departing of his own volition for a bigger job outside the region, the other being bought out to end a controversy that’s damaged the station he led for decades.

*In northeast PENNSYLVANIA, the longtime leader of WVIA public TV and radio is out of the building after a public outcry over his salary and benefit level. Bill Kelly was serving as emeritus president at the Pittston-based stations after handing over the reins to Tom Currá in mid-2013, but he made some very unwanted headlines when news emerged that Kelly was still being paid more than Currá even after moving from the top job to a new position in which his chief responsibility was fundraising. (How much more? Currá’s being paid $150,000 a year, while Kelly’s salary alone was $200,000, plus additional benefits.)

wvia-curraWhether that sort of compensation is justifiable or not – and Kelly’s longtime colleague Dave Yonki made a pretty good case for it back when Kelly stepped down as CEO in 2013 – WVIA found out the hard way that it’s awfully hard to explain to the same viewers and listeners from whom it was asking for membership dollars $50 and $100 at a time. As Kelly’s salary package made headlines in 2013 and 2014, WVIA reportedly lost close to half its membership base, which finally forced the station’s board to take action.

As of the start of 2015, Kelly is completely out at WVIA, thanks to board members who reached into their own pockets and raised outside money to come up with nearly $300,000 to buy him out of the last two years of his contract.

“While the endowment project continues to be an important venture in order to create a more sustainable public media for our region, the board did not anticipate the negative reactions from its members,” wrote board chair Martin Walzer. “The WVIA board wants its members to know their concerns were heard and the board has taken corrective action to address this important issue.”

Will that move be enough to win back a skeptical member base? Even if it does, it still leaves WVIA without the big-ticket fundraising Kelly did, reportedly to the tune of more than a million dollars of incoming money each year. At a time when government support for public broadcasting is slim to nonexistent in many areas (Pennsylvania zeroed out its state funding in 2008, for instance), this is a challenge that will only get bigger as public TV and radio stations try to find their way forward.

It’s not at all unique to public broadcasting, of course; ask any nonprofit leader about the kind of criticism a big salary can draw. But given the widespread perception (increasingly inaccurate) that public broadcasting salaries are paid by taxpayer dollars, and given the increasing amount of direct member solicitation public broadcasters have to do to stay on the air, it’s a particular concern in this corner of the nonprofit world.

(Disclaimer: your editor also works from time to time at public broadcaster WXXI, including on-air fundraising, and has served as a consultant to other public radio and TV stations in the region; opinions expressed here are, as always, my own.)

rinprThe easier story comes from RHODE ISLAND, where Joe O’Connor is packing up his office at RI NPR (WELH 88.1 Providence and its two out-state relays) in preparation for a new job heading up public radio station WFAE in Charlotte, North Carolina.

O’Connor came to what was then just WRNI (1290) in 2006, and he’s seen the station through some huge changes: first the difficult transition from Boston University’s ownership to standalone status, not to mention the move from AM to FM in Providence and some pretty impressive growth behind the scenes in staffing.

Chief operating officer Susan Greenhalgh will serve as O’Connor’s interim replacement when he leaves in a few weeks, and there’s a nationwide search underway for a permanent successor.

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The 2016 edition is due to come back from the printer in just a few days, and it’s ready for you to order!

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*Our NEW YORK news begins with two obituaries.

Everyone knew Lowell Paxson as “Bud” – even Paxson himself, who had a well-known habit of always referring to himself in the third person, so much so that some people who attended meetings didn’t realize the man constantly saying “Bud thinks this” and “Bud wants that” actually was “Bud.” Bud could get away with that, of course, because by the end of his career he was one of the wealthiest broadcast owners in the country, creator of the Home Shopping Network, Pax TV and a onetime radio magnate whose holdings became a significant part of the Clear Channel empire.

Long before Paxson was a nationally-known figure, though, he was a western New York broadcaster, starting with a partial interest in WACK (1420 Newark) as well as WBRY (1590 Waterbury CT) and then moving on to Jamestown. His time at WKSN (1340)/WHUG (101.7) and upstart UHF station WNYP (Channel 26) was more colorful than successful.

Shut out from the US network affiliations controlled by the big stations in Buffalo, 40 miles away, Paxson looked across Lake Erie to Canada for a solution.

“Bud went on the air and tried to use a loophole in the FCC rules to rebroadcast shows taken off the air from channels 5,9 and 11 in Canada,” recalls Randy Michaels, another western New Yorker who made it big later on. “During the Second World War, an FCC rule was created that allowed US stations to rebroadcast foreign stations without foreign stations’ permission. The purpose was to allow us stations to rebroadcast war news picked up by short wave. Bud tried to use that rule to program his station. He was correct that there was no FCC violation, but the copyright holders successfully sued him for infringement.”

While most biographies of Paxson date his creation of the Home Shopping Network to 1977, after he’d relocated to Florida and was trying to unload kitchen equipment he’d received in trade for advertising at a struggling AM station near Tampa, Michaels says the genesis of TV shopping actually happened almost a decade earlier in Jamestown, when Paxson tried the idea as a way of keeping channel 26 afloat after the Canadian-fed programming was pulled.

In any event, channel 26 didn’t last long and much of its equipment ended up being moved down Route 17 and repurposed for the 1969 debut of WENY-TV (Channel 36) in Elmira. By the time channel 26 returned to the airwaves in the 1980s, Bud Paxson was playing in much bigger arenas, becoming a major player in cluster radio in big Florida markets, running first HSN and then Pax TV, and turning his born-again Christian faith into a role as a major force in religious TV.

Bud Paxson died Friday in Florida at age 80.

*Few people in radio work as hard for as little reward as small-market newscasters. Where they still exist at all, it’s not at all uncommon for them to work late nights covering town council meetings or other events, only to be back in the studio and back on the air early the next morning to tell their towns what’s going on. So it was a particular loss last week when news arrived of the death of Scott Dosztan, who’d been covering the news in Potsdam since 2001 at WSNN (99.3)/WPDM (1470).

Dosztan, who’d also worked at WBRV in Boonville, WIRY in Plattsburgh and WENT in Gloversville, appears to have collapsed and died while walking from his home to the WPDM/WSNN studios early Monday morning. He was just 44 years old, and he leaves behind a community that depended on him for daily news.

(You can read a particularly nice tribute to Dosztan from competitor North Country Public Radio, here.)

winu-sm*Today’s launch day for the Albany market’s fourth all-sports station, as Pamal flips the former WZMR (104.9 Altamont) from AAA “104.9 the Peak” to WINU, “WIN 104.9.”

Unlike at least two of its competitors, Townsquare ESPN outlet WTMM (104.5) and iHeart Fox Sports affiliate WOFX (980), the new “WIN” won’t feature any local programming when it launches. Instead, it’s slated to be a straight 24-hour feed of the CBS Sports Radio network, a departure from previous Pamal practice. (Back when it was running WROW 590 as a talker, Pamal picked up several shows from New York’s WFAN, including the popular “Mike and the Mad Dog.”)

There’s also no play-by-play listed yet on the WINU schedule; with baseball season approaching, that means Albany listeners can get the Yankees on WTMM and the Red Sox on WOFX, but there’s no local radio coverage for the Mets (a long-ago staple on 104.9 before the station moved from Amsterdam eastward into the Albany market) or the local single-A team, the Tri-City Valley Cats.

Northeast of Albany, Brian Larson’s Northeast Gospel Broadcasting has been granted another translator. W227CY (93.3 Easton) will run 10 watts from the top of Willard Mountain.

*Down the Hudson Valley, Townsquare pulled a surprise format change at WEOK (1390 Poughkeepsie) and its mostly-simulcast sister, WALL (1340 Middletown): as of last Monday, the oldies are gone and regional Mexican is in, with a new nickname of “Fierro.” At least for now, WALL continues to break from the WEOK simulcast weekday mornings for Mark West’s leased-time local Middletown morning show. His current contract with WALL ends in March, and Townsquare says it’s not sure whether the show will continue then. (Townsquare also says the WEOK-WALL oldies format was drawing a solid 0.0 in the ratings, so something had to change.)

This is the second time in Spanish for WEOK/WALL, which ran a tropical format for three years before switching to Radio Disney in 2005.

*Here in Rochester, Tias Schuster is the new PD at iHeart’s WKGS (Kiss 106.7) and WDVI (100.5 the Drive). Schuster moves north from Entercom in Greenville, South Carolina – but long before that, he’d spent time as PD of WKRZ (98.5) in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania (where, ironically, he competed directly with AJ, his predecessor here in Rochester.)

Just down the road in Dansville, Barry Vee is the new morning man at Genesee Media’s WMRV (93.9)/WDNY (1400). Barry’s a veteran of Rochester radio, of course, including a long run doing traffic at WHAM (1180) and its sister stations, as well as WJZR (North Coast 105.9), WLGZ (Legends 102.7) and a recent stint doing morning news at WACK (1420 Newark).

Jerry Mac is the new operations manager at the Community Broadcasters cluster in Elmira/Corning, inbound from Saga in Nashville.

wnlo-wingingitIn Buffalo, LIN-turned-Media General CW affiliate WNLO (Channel 23) has pulled the plug on “Winging It! Buffalo Style,” its curiously-punctuated 9 AM lifestyle-advertorial show. WNLO is now carrying the syndicated Meredith Vieira show in the timeslot, and businesses seeking to buy a friendly on-air interview still have the higher-rated “AM Buffalo” over on WKBW (Channel 7) as an option.

Radio and TV People (and Stations) on the Move in Watertown: Intrepid Broadcasting’s WBLH (92.5 Black River) is planning to relocate to a new home in the old Masonic Temple building downtown, which is undergoing an extensive renovation. Since its launch a few years back, “Tunes 92.5” has made its studio home a couple of blocks to the north in the J.B. Wise Plaza building, also in the heart of downtown. And just a block away from the Masonic Temple, WWNY (Channel 7) is preparing to say goodbye to one of its longest-serving managers. Cathy Pirczuk came to the station in 1979 as a reporter and gradually worked her way up the chain of command, serving as assignment editor, news director and eventually general manager/divisional VP, a post she’s held since 1996. No replacement has been named yet.

A call change in the Utica market: EMF Broadcasting is typically very quick to match the callsigns of its stations to the networks they carry, but WOKR (93.5 Remsen) somehow kept its old callsign for many years after EMF took over. Why is it just now changing calls to match the “Air 1” satellite service it carries? We don’t know – but in any case, the Remsen station is now WARW, and the WOKR calls, long associated with channel 13 over here in Rochester (now WHAM-TV), are at large.

(It’s not quite coincidence that the WOKR calls ended up over in Remsen – they were parked there by Clear Channel back when it owned both the Rochester TV station and a Utica radio cluster. That’s also why WIXT, the old callsign of channel 9 in Syracuse, now resides quietly on the former WLFH 1230 in Little Falls.)

*In Syracuse, WOLF (1490) has returned to the airwaves, at least temporarily. The venerable AM outlet has been silent since last February, when Radio Disney ended its affiliation deal with Craig Fox and Fox, lacking alternate programming, took the AM signal dark. WOLF has returned with a simulcast of Fox’s “Dinosaur” oldies format for two reasons, as best we can tell: first, to avoid losing the license as that one-year mark approaches next month, and second, to beat the expiration date on the latest CP to move 1490 from the tall tower at its W. Kirkpatrick Street studio/transmitter site to the shorter tower next door that used to be part of its directional antenna system.

Over at Galaxy’s K-Rock stations (WKRL 100.9 North Syracuse/WKRH 106.5 Minetto/WKLL 94.9 Frankfort), “Carsen” is the new PD. She moves up from assistant PD/music director to replace Hunter, who stays on as the morning host there.

Up north, the FCC made quick work of the application from WMUD-LP in Moriah to switch to 107.5 instead of 107.3. Chip Morgan’s LPFM is being displaced from its current home at 89.3, but the FCC says the move to 107.5 would put it too close to Vermont Public Radio’s WVPS (107.9), 60 miles away across Lake Champlain. (We’ll note the irony that a similar-sized signal would be deemed to cause no interference on the very same frequency at the same site, if only it were licensed as a translator of a distant signal instead of as a program-originating local LPFM…)

In New York City, WNYC has quietly dropped one of its longest-running personalities. It’s been almost four years since Danny Stiles died at age 87, but the “Vicar of Vintage” left behind many decades’ worth of material that’s continued to air on WNYC’s AM 820 signal Saturday nights from 8-11. This past weekend, a WNYC schedule shuffle added several new shows in that Saturday slot (“Sound Opinions” at 8 and “Splendid Table” at 9) and retired Stiles’ “Best of” show from the lineup.

*Mark down new call letters for Neskaya’s new LPFM way up north in Franconia, NEW HAMPSHIRE: the 105.1 signal will be WNEY-LP when it hits the airwaves.

Howie Carr’s syndicated show adds Manchester’s WFEA (1370) as an affiliate next Monday, breaking the Saga standards/AC outlet out of its music format for four hours each weekday afternoon (are Carr or his syndicator leasing time?) as Carr tries to replicate the coverage he once enjoyed over former Boston flagship WRKO. Carr is also adding WBEC (1420 Pittsfield MA) to his network, as well as the recent addition of WCAP (980 Lowell).

*The FCC’s LPFM process has cranked out four new construction permits on two frequencies in RHODE ISLAND. In Providence, three of the applicants seeking 101.1 agreed to share time on the channel, and so all of them – Brown Student Radio, Providence Community Radio and the AS220 arts group – will do a complicated scheduling dance once they get that signal on the air. Another of the original six applicants for 101.1, the Marconi Broadcasting Foundation, amended its application to call for the use of 95.1 down in Coventry, where it’s now the holder of a brand-new CP for fulltime operation.

Up in the northwest corner of the state, there’s a new full-power CP, too: Catholic broadcaster St. Joseph’s Radio Station applied for 91.5 in Pascoag back in the 2007 window for noncommercial applications, and it’s now been granted 8.6 kW/62′ DA, with most of that signal aimed northwest from its proposed tower site in Burrillville.

whav*It’s been a good 2015 so far for one northeast MASSACHUSETTS broadcaster. Tim Coco and his husband Genesio Oliveira celebrated last week when Oliveira finally received his green card, concluding a 12-year legal fight for recognition of their marriage. And then on Friday, Coco got word that the FCC had granted a CP for the LPFM he’s been seeking in Haverhill, giving an over-the-air FM voice to the excellent local webcasting (and Part 15 AM) he’s been doing as WHAV.net for more than a decade. Coco’s Public Media of New England, Inc. had initially applied for 98.1 in Haverhill, but the application was later modified to 97.9 to make it a grantable “singleton.”

As Coco will be the first to tell you, the combination of “WHAV” and FM in Haverhill goes back to 1947, when the original WHAV-FM (92.5) was one of New England’s early FM outlets. That station’s latest incarnation, WXRV, now uses nearby Andover as its city of license, though it retains Haverhill studios. The WHAV calls currently belong to the Coast Guard, but we expect it won’t take long at all for Coco and his WHAV.net crew to get the callsign released and put WHAV-LP on the air at 97.9.

The FCC’s continuing churn through the LPFM backlog also yielded a CP south of Boston for Easton Community Access TV, which will get a low-power FM signal at 96.5.

*A generation ago, the noncommercial end of the FM dial on Cape Cod was a big expanse of nearly empty spectrum – but my, how things have changed. Even before the DTV conversion took away the protection that WLNE (Channel 6) used to enjoy at the bottom end of the FM dial across much of the Cape and Islands, those frequencies between 88 and 92 MHz became much more desirable than they once were.

Want an example? Consider the fight that Boston’s WGBH just won against Cape Cod Regional Technical High School. Cape Cod Tech’s WCCT-FM (90.3 Harwich) is one of the oldest noncommercial FMs on the Cape, and it threw up an objection when WGBH refiled for a power increase at its WCAI (90.1 Woods Hole) in August 2013, a day after its original CP for the power increase had expired. The FCC granted the new CP just a month after WCAI applied, but WCCT said the quick grant left it no opportunity to file its own application for a competing power increase, instead allowing WGBH to warehouse spectrum it didn’t immediately intend to use.

The FCC disagreed. Last week, it upheld the grant to WCAI (which has since built out and licensed the new 12.5 kW signal), saying its policies do allow for competing applications to be filed the day after a CP expires, something WCCT failed to do.

*Where Are They Now? Longtime WAAF personality John Osterlind is on the beach in New Orleans, ousted from the afternoon talk shift he’d been occupying at iHeart talker WRNO (99.5). Osterlind says despite strong ratings, it’s his understanding that iHeart is getting rid of local afternoon shifts at nearly all the stations where it still had local talkers.

*On the NEW JERSEY shore, veteran jock Bob O’Brien has a new full-time shift. He’s now the afternoon guy at Greater Media’s WJRZ (100.1 Manahawkin), where a staffing shuffle finds another veteran talent, Glenn Kalina, leaving the station. Morning man Matt Knight moves up from assistant PD to PD to fill that piece of Kalina’s former role; midday guy T.J. Bryan takes over as APD.

At WXPN (88.5 Philadelphia), it’s retirement time for Gene Shay after 52 years on the radio. Shay was working at WHAT (1340) when he founded the Philadelphia Folk Festival in 1962, and in subsequent years he moved “The Folk Show” around to WMMR (93.3), WIOQ (102.1), WHYY (90.9) and WXPN, where it’s been at home since 1995. As he turns 80, Shay will host his last Folk Show on February 1 at 8 PM on ‘XPN.

Out west, Family Life Ministries wants to move translator W218BF (91.5) in Warren to 102.1. Up the road in Erie, Grace of Calvary Baptist Church has picked the calls WBTB-LP for its new LPFM, to operate on 107.9.

uhf1-resizeWe have been deeply remiss in not promoting the heck out of one of our favorite new sites on the web. Pittsburgh’s own Clarke Ingram and his partners in crime K.M. Richards and Maureen Carney have been working behind the scenes for quite a while on a site documenting the crazy, colorful (OK, mostly black-and-white) early years of UHF television in America, and their work is now up for all to see at UHFTelevision.com. The site incorporates Clarke’s earlier “Trail of Bleached Bones” listing of defunct early UHF stations as well as Peter George’s old “UHF Morgue,” and much more as well.

And some late, sad news as we finish up the column: Nick Ferrara was “Nick Bazoo” on the air in a long career as a jock and programmer that included stints in western Pennsylvania at WBZZ (B94) in Pittsburgh and at several stations in State College, as well as a long run in Louisiana and the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. Ferrara died Friday night in Gulfport, Mississippi when his car rear-ended an SUV. He wasn’t wearing a seat belt and was killed instantly, police say. Ferrara was 59.

*In CANADA, Evanov Broadcasting won’t get to put a new signal on the air in Brechin-Ramara, up in Ontario’s “Cottage Country.” Doing business as Dufferin Communications, the Evanov group had applied for 8.9 kW average/25 kW max DA/88m on 96.9, but the proposal drew opposition from Bayshore Broadcasting, Vista Radio and Larche Communications. They argued that the Brechin-Ramara signal would compete with existing stations in nearby Orillia, Bracebridge and Gravenhurst. While Evanov insisted that its intention was to focus primarily on the much smaller towns of Brechin and Ramara, the CRTC agreed with the competitors that Evanov would have to draw revenue away from the existing stations in the larger neighboring communities to succeed, so it denied the Evanov application.

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CALENDARS — CALENDARS — CALENDARS

Yes, we are working on the 2021 Tower Site Calendar, soon to be released — but you can order it NOW.

This is the 20th year we have been publishing our calendar. It’s still being designed, but we promise you we’ll have plenty of gorgeous tower shots to decorate your walls for the entire year.

As we’re working on it you can order the calendar in advance for 25% off — the lowest price of the season.

And while you’re getting your calendar, don’t forget the other great products in our store.

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: January 13, 2014

*Is the governor of NEW YORK spending $40,000 a day to conduct top-secret surveillance against a talk host who’s been vociferously opposed to his gun-control legislation?

Bauerle (photo: WBEN)
Bauerle (photo: WBEN)

Back on “New Year’s Eve Eve,” as he put it, WBEN (930 Buffalo) afternoon host Tom Bauerle spent the start of his show spinning what sounded like a fantastic tale about the plots being spun against him to get him to stop criticizing Governor Andrew Cuomo.

“There are people in this state who want me off the air,” Bauerle told listeners on a December 30 broadcast, saying that “at great expense,” he’s taken steps at home to defend against what “professional people have called the biggest surveillance operation they have ever seen against a civilian.”

While WBEN archives its Bauerle audio online, the first hour of that December 30 show is missing from their website. Nothing vanishes forever these days, though, and the Buffalo News and the local Trending Buffalo blog found that audio, in which Bauerle talked about how his “counterintelligence people” had been detecting signs of an operation against him.

“How many times have I told you they will come after me?,” Bauerle asked, claiming that “they” were trying to provoke him into shooting in order to take his weapons away, saying he “could mobilize an army” to defend against the harassment he claimed to be enduring and threatening “massive civil lawsuits” against “whoever did it.”

For better or worse, Bauerle’s monologue was not out of the norm for a lot of AM talk radio these days, and his rants about Cuomo’s personal life would have passed without much notice – until Bauerle did something unusual that’s just not done in radio these days: he disappeared from WBEN’s airwaves for a few days at the height of the Blizzard of 2014 that paralyzed the region early last week.

(Sidebar here: when WBEN was the rock-solid full-service voice that kept Buffalo together during the last massive paralyzing blizzard back in 1977, would Clint Buehlman and Jefferson Kaye have gone on the air to call then-governor Hugh Carey a “scumbag,” one of the milder epithets Bauerle aimed at Cuomo on December 30th?)

Bauerle, it turns out, was entirely right that “something big” was happening in his life, but it’s not at all clear yet just what it was. Over the weekend, the News reported that police in the Buffalo suburb of Amherst were called to Bauerle’s house in the midst of the storm around 3 o’clock Wednesday morning, where they found him with a loaded semi-automatic handgun in his backyard, searching his yard for someone spying on him. The News, quoting Amherst police sources, says Bauerle was questioned about the absence of any footprints in the fresh snow and told an officer “that government operatives have special shoes that leave no prints in the snow,” and then identified a tree as a person. (It was apparently just the latest of more than a dozen calls Amherst police have made to Bauerle’s home since November, according to the News.)

Later that day, the News reports, Bauerle agreed to be taken for a mental evaluation. He was off the air on WBEN on Wednesday and Thursday but returned Friday, saying he’d been taking a few days off for exhaustion. Even before Bauerle’s return, the News and other media outlets were reaching out to WBEN and Bauerle for comment, only to find themselves stonewalled.

*After five weeks off the air, RHODE ISLAND talker John DePetro was back on WPRO (630 Providence)/WEAN (99.7 Wakefield-Peace Dale) last Monday, and the temperature of the kerfuffle over his November anti-union remarks has cooled from incendiary to a mere dull glow. For his first few days back on the Cumulus talker, DePetro stayed away from most of his usual hot-button topics. By week’s end, at least one of the politicians who’d been vowing to boycott the station was back on his show for an interview. The coalition that mustered against DePetro says it’s still going to keep up the fight, especially with his contract reportedly set to expire in March.

*There were plenty of communities where UHF television died an ugly death in the early 1950s. Western MASSACHUSETTS was one of those rare places where UHF not only survived but thrived, and it did so in no small part because of a woman named Katherine Broman.

books-putnam“Kitty” Broman, who died January 5 just a few weeks shy of her 98th birthday, was there when WWLP-TV (Channel 61) signed on in Springfield in 1953 as one of the first UHF stations anywhere in the country. And while her official role at WWLP at the beginning was a pretty standard one for women of that era, hosting the cooking show and working as a secretary to station founder Bill Putnam, Kitty Broman really did a whole lot more at the station. For decades, she worked right alongside Putnam to help move WWLP to a better channel (its present home on channel 22) and to grow Springfield Television into a group owner that eventually had stations in Greenfield and Worcester, not to mention Dayton, Charlotte, N.C. and Salt Lake City.

Along the way, she became a beloved television personality in Springfield, where she continued to host a daytime talk show on WWLP into the 1990s, using her local renown to raise impressive amounts of money to help provide treatment for mental illness.

She also became the first woman ever to sit on the board of the National Association of Broadcasters – and eventually, she married Bill Putnam and enjoyed a long retirement with him at their homes in Massachusetts and Flagstaff, Arizona.

In 2012, the Putnams wrote a memoir of their years in early television, “How We Survived in UHF Television,” and it’s highly recommended.

A memorial service was held Friday in Longmeadow, where the Putnams were living at the time of Kitty’s death.

Five Years Ago: January 11, 2010

As public radio has evolved into a big business over the last quarter-century, many of the institutions that were early sponsors of public radio stations are finding that big-time broadcasting no longer fits their mission. The latest example comes from western PENNSYLVANIA, where Pittsburgh’s Duquesne University announced last week that it’s looking to sell WDUQ (90.5), the station it put on the air as a low-power student-run operation back in 1949. “The university is proud of the station’s success,” said a statement from the station last week, “and sees that it is big enough to exist outside the university’s umbrella. While the university continues to look at all opportunities, it is currently working with a group comprised of the current management of DUQ, representatives of the foundation community, and the public broadcasting consulting group Public Radio Capital to explore the possibility of WDUQ becoming an independent public radio station.”

Duquesne’s involvement with WDUQ has been largely hands-off for the last few years; while the university continues to hold the station’s license and to provide office space, most of WDUQ’s funding now comes from individual members, underwriters and corporate/foundation grants, and Duquesne has had little involvement with the station’s programming. One notable exception came in 2007, when the Catholic university’s leadership forced WDUQ to return underwriting money from Planned Parenthood.

While there’s no shortage of message-board speculation about potential purchasers for the big-signalled station, it seems clear that the intent is to keep WDUQ functioning substantially as it already does. Its mix of NPR news/talk programming and jazz routinely nets respectable ratings, higher than classical competitor WQED-FM (89.3) or AAA WYEP (91.3), and with Pittsburgh’s long history of corporate funding for cultural institutions, it’s highly likely that WDUQ can be successfully transitioned to some form of community nonprofit ownership with its current staff and management intact.

In MASSACHUSETTS, the big news came from WFNX (101.7 Lynn), which pulled the plug on its “Sandbox” morning show after two and a half years, dropping hosts Charlie Padgett and “Special Ed” Oliveira. Co-host Dustin “Fletcher” Matthews stays on board at the modern rocker, hosting a new morning show with PD Keith Dakin and veteran FNX newsman Henry Santoro. Also helping out with the new show is production director and former afternoon jock “Big Jim” Murray, who’s being replaced in drivetime by Adam Chapman, aka “Adam 12,” who’d left WFNX a few years back to go to the now-defunct WBCN (104.1). Later in the evening, “Loveline” is gone, and Paul Driscoll’s night shift now runs from 6 PM until midnight.

While we’re on the topic of signals, Fordham University’s WFUV (90.7 New York) reports that it’s completed the installation of its new antenna atop a Montefiore Medical Center apartment building in the Bronx. WFUV moved to Montefiore in 2006 from its never-completed tower on the Fordham campus, but the 10-bay Dielectric antenna that went up back then never quite lived up to expectations, and now it has been replaced by a six-bay Shively directional antenna at the same site.

There’s a format change coming in the Hudson Valley (and neighboring Danbury, CONNECTICUT) later today, or so we’re told – Cumulus’ WDBY (105.5 Patterson) is promoting a 1:05 PM flip to country as “Kicks 105,” replacing the AC “Y105” format that’s been in place there since 2002.

MONDAY UPDATE: And that’s exactly what happened, as WDBY segued out of its 1 PM “Y105” ID into five minutes of a countdown clock, followed by the launch of country music. Bill “Mr. Morning” Trotta, who was Y105’s high-profile hire a year ago, when he moved from his longtime home on crosstown WDAQ (98.3 Danbury), remains in place in morning drive.

Ten Years Ago: January 11, 2005

In last week’s NERW, we wondered what was up with the ongoing Christmas music on what had been the smooth jazz/adult R&B station for NEW YORK’s capital district, and now we know: Pamal has pulled the plug on the “Love 104.9” format at WZMR (104.9 Altamont), replacing it – apparently as more than just a stunt – with a simulcast of country “Froggy 107” WFFG (107.1 Corinth) from the Glens Falls market. It’s a slight shot across the bow of Regent’s market-dominating WGNA (107.7 Albany), though the WZMR signal is a far cry from WGNA’s big stick.

Citadel’s fight with Howard Stern is over, at least on the air in Syracuse, Providence, New Bedford and York, Pennsylvania; those stations (WAQX 95.7 Manlius NY, WWKX 106.3 Woonsocket RI/WAKX 102.7 Narragansett Pier RI, WKKB 100.3 Middletown RI and WQXA-FM 105.7 York PA) hadn’t been carrying Stern’s show, for the most part, since he began his vacation last month, and last week they announced that they’re dropping it for good. In Syracuse, WAQX continues to run day-old Opie & Anthony segments, and read on to see what the others are up to…

Buffalo’s top 40 WKSE (98.5 Niagara Falls) starts the new year without its longtime PD. After 17 years at “Kiss,” Dave Universal didn’t return from his vacation last week, having been ousted by station owner Entercom. A memo announcing the change was reportedly circulating at Entercom Buffalo before Universal had even gotten the news directly; no replacement has yet been named.

WOKR Remsen?!?!?! Sounds weird to us, too, but that’s apparently where Clear Channel is parking the calls that are, as of this morning, gone from Rochester’s channel 13 after just over 42 years at that spot as the only calls the ABC affiliate ever had. At 5 AM Monday, WOKR(TV) became WHAM-TV, with original WOKR announcer Jerry Carr (now station manager at West Palm Beach public broadcaster WXEL) signing off the old calls for the final time. Still sounds weird to us…

Saga kicked off 2005 by swapping calls and formats on two of its stations in the Keene, NEW HAMPSHIRE market: oldies WOQL (98.7 Winchester) takes the “Wink Country” format and WINQ calls from 97.7 Winchendon MA, sending the oldies and WOQL calls across the state line to 97.7. The new WINQ on 98.7 challenges market leader WYRY (104.9 Hinsdale) in the format, and from its new transmitter site in Fitzwilliam, we hear WOQL on 97.7 is putting quite a good signal over Keene, too.

Fifteen Years Ago: January 14, 2000

[no issue – NERW was traveling]

Twenty Years Ago: January 12, 1995

WBCS (Country 96.9) is offering a million dollars to any listener who catches them changing from country to another format during 1995. This is their way of saying to rival country WCLB that they won’t blink first. WCLB and WBCS have been
divvying up the listeners in what’s probably a one-country-station town for almost 2 years now. Does this mean WCLB will blink first? We shall see…

WLLH (1400) in Lowell/Lawrence, MA has moved from its studios at 40-44 Church St., Lowell, to the Lowell Sheraton hotel up the street. They’ve dumped the reverb, and put in a new transmitter at the synchronous site in Lawrence. Sounds much better now. Crosstown WCAP (980) dumped talker Casey Crane from its local AM drive show, which she had co-hosted since before I worked there in 1991-92. WCAP’s AM show is its only local programming; the rest of the day is low-budget satellite talk from For the People and other such nets.