In this week’s issue… What’s heating up at Hot 97? – WMCA’s new “Mission” – FCC reconsiders, forces Mass. FM move – EMF grows in Maine – Evanov seeks big Toronto HD move-in – We turn 21!
By SCOTT FYBUSH
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*”Hot 97″ and “stable” haven’t been words that go together in NEW YORK radio for a while now, and last week was no different. We start in the PD chair, where Jay Dixon is out after just half a year on the job. While Dixon will continue to consult for Emmis and other clients, Pio Ferro comes on board as PD at WQHT (97.1). Ferro comes to Emmis from Spanish Broadcasting System (SBS), where he was national PD for a portfolio of stations that included WSKQ (97.9) in New York.
Down the hall in the air studio, Nessa is the new afternoon jock at Hot 97, making a cross-country move from her current gig with iHeart’s KYLD in San Francisco. At Hot, she replaces Cipha Sounds, who’ll stay on “in other capacities.” Could that be the midday shift, where Big Dennis Rivera was quietly ousted last week after a remarkable 20-year run with WQHT?
And then there’s that weird story that started making the rounds Sunday night: a thinly-sourced report that music mogul Jay-Z was in negotiations to buy Hot 97. Over at RadioInsight, Lance unpacked that one nicely: in a nutshell, it’s entirely possible Jay-Z might become an investor in Emmis (which is widely rumored to be more in buying than selling mode in the urban/Hispanic major market landscape), but highly unlikely that Emmis has any intention of selling its premier property outright.
*Then there’s Salem’s New York City cluster, which doesn’t often make headlines, especially on the religious side at WMCA (570). It may not draw much in the way of ratings, but WMCA’s roster of preaching and teaching brings in steady revenues, which is why we were dubious when the station started announcing it would be “no more” beginning today.
The on-air hints weren’t leading to an all-out format change, as some speculation had it, nor to a signal swap with talk sister WNYM (970). Instead, they pointed the way to a new on-air identity, “570 the Mission,” one of the first incarnations of what appears to be a new national brand for Salem’s religious stations around the country. (RadioInsight picked up on a “Mission” domain registration in the Twin Cities for Salem’s KKMS 980, and it’s a pretty safe bet that the Salem plan is to roll out that branding around the country in much the same way that it’s branded most of its conservative talk stations from coast to coast as “The Answer.”)
WMCA marks its 90th birthday in just a few weeks (February 6, if you’re inclined to send a card), and it’s remarkable to note that of all the many formats that have been associated with that venerable callsign over the years, religion has outlasted WMCA’s memorable turns with top-40 (barely a decade, from the late 1950s until 1970) and talk (1970-1989).
*Over at Cumulus, New York City market manager Kim Bryant has moved on after just under two busy years on the job. Following the launch of “Nash” WNSH (94.7) and “Radio 103.9” WNBM, Bryant has been promoted to executive VP of West Coast sales for Cumulus-owned Westwood One. No replacement has been named yet at the New York cluster, which also includes troubled talker WABC (770) and hot AC WPLJ (95.5). Will the next New York market manager also oversee what’s left of WFAS up in Westchester, where GM Marty Sheehan also appears to be out?
(And speaking of Westwood One, check out your editor’s story about its new Technical Operations Center in Westchester County, just published in Radio World!)
*Univision’s Manhattan FM booster for WQBU (92.7 Garden City) is on the move. WQBU-1 is losing its lease atop the hulking building at 450 W. 33rd Street (the former home to, among other things, WNET 13 and the Daily News) , and it’s asking the FCC for permission to move a block north to a rooftop at 460 W. 34th St. From there, the directional on-channel booster would go to 99 watts from its present 80 watts.
Before we leave New York City, we take a moment to remember Lou Miliano, one of the finest radio reporters out there. After making a name for himself with the RKO Radio Network in its declining years, Miliano jumped ship to CBS in 1989. While he eventually crowned his career with a stint at CBS Radio News that started in 1998, Miliano first worked at WCBS (880), bringing his usual attention to the craft of natural sound to the fast pace of local all-news radio. Miliano had retired from CBS in 2007; he died Monday in Florida after a lengthy battle with lung cancer. He was just 67.
*With Monday’s launch of WINU (104.9), Albany now has four sports stations, one for each major commercial ownership cluster, and now it’s going three-for-four on country music, too. Townsquare’s WGNA (107.7) is the big gun in the market, of course, and it’s been fending off competition from Pamal/Albany Broadcasting’s WKLI (Cat Country 100.9) for a while. As of last week, there’s a new player in the mix, too: iHeart’s “New Country 99.9.” The new entrant is officially W260CH, a 250-watt relay of WRVE (99.5)’s HD2, and it transmits from the Rensselaer transmitter site of iHeart’s WGY-FM (103.1).
There’s country news from Hornell, too, where Kevin Doran’s WCKR (92.1) has signed on as one of the first non-Cumulus affiliates of the newly-syndicated “Nash Icon” classic country format.
In Geneva, the Smith Center for the Arts has been the official licensee of WHWS-LP (105.7) since it signed on as WSAC-LP back in 2003. But all that time, the LPFM has actually been operated by Hobart and William Smith Colleges, just down the street – and now HWS is making its ownership of the LPFM official in a transfer with no cash changing hands. The student-run LPFM operates in tandem with Hobart-owned public stations WEOS (89.5 Geneva) and WITH-FM (90.1 Ithaca), which are in turn operated by Rochester public broadcaster WXXI. (Usual disclaimer applies.)
More LPFM news from around the Empire State: in the Capital District, new grants this week include 105.3 Troy (Media Alliance), 95.9 Schenectady (Troy Bike Rescue) and 106.9 Albany (Green Education and Legal Fund). In Binghamton, the Bundy Museum picks WBDY-LP for its new LPFM grant at 99.5.
Changing times are ending a longstanding autumn tradition in the upstate broadcast community. After more than 40 years holding an October convention, first in Syracuse and more recently at the Turning Stone casino in Oneida, SBE Chapter 22 announced last week that it won’t hold its annual Expo this year, citing rising venue costs and declining support from industry vendors.
“The SBE 22 Expo Committee is re-evaluating our strategy for 2015 and beyond, and we will announce our plans for the future effort by the end of April,” says chapter chairman Chris Baycura.
*EMF Broadcasting just keeps buying, and having largely run out of markets where it can introduce a first Christian AC or Christian rock format, the California-based company’s current strategy seems to be buying out existing stations in the format.
That’s what’s happening in southern MAINE, where EMF is spending $925,000 to buy WMSJ (89.3 Freeport) from Bethesda Christian Broadcasting. When the sale closes, Bethesda’s “Positive FM” format will go away, replaced by the satellite-fed sounds of EMF’s “K-Love.” In the Portland market, K-Love on 89.3 will operate in tandem with EMF’s existing signal, Christian rock “Air-1” on WARX (93.9 Lewiston). The deal also includes WMSJ’s fairly distant translator, W260AS (99.9) in Lawrence, Mass., which will bring K-Love to a piece of the Merrimack Valley.
*One of the signature sports voices in MASSACHUSETTS has fallen silent. Bob Wilson was the Bruins on the radio for many years, starting as an analyst in 1964 and then moving to the play-by-play chair starting in 1967. With the exception of two seasons (1969-71), Wilson remained the Bs radio voice until his retirement during the strike-shortened 1994-95 season. His career included the call of the Stanley Cup win in 1972. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1987 and the Massachusetts Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 2007; in 2011, the Bruins named the radio booth at the Garden after him.
The Arlington native, whose real name was Robert Castellon, served in the Air Force and began his radio career in Louisiana before coming home to work at WCOP (1150) early in his career. That’s where he took his mother’s family name as his air name, and where he worked as a top-40 DJ before moving into the world of sports. He died Thursday of lung cancer, at 85.
*Up the North Shore, there’s an interesting shuffle playing out in the noncommercial part of the FM dial. UMass Boston had been one of several applicants for 91.5 on Cape Ann back in the 2007 window, and the FCC initially rejected its application because of a typo in one spot that put its transmitter site somewhere near Baie-St.-Paul, Quebec instead of Gloucester.
Making the very sensible point that the rest of the application correctly showed the desired Gloucester site (and that UMass obviously wasn’t applying for a site 450 miles north in Quebec), UMB sppealed the FCC’s dismissal, and for almost five years the whole matter sat idle at a Commission not known for its speed. In the meantime, the FCC granted a competing 91.5 application from Maine’s Light of Life Ministries, and WWRN (91.5 Rockport) was licensed in June 2012.
But in mid-December, the FCC finally acted on appeals from UMB and several other broadcasters caught in that same typo bind. Acknowledging that the laws were “ambiguous” about whether UMB and other applicants could have expected the FCC to catch the typos, the Commission returned those applications – including UMB’s 91.5 Gloucester – to “pending” status. (It also ordered a clarification of the rules so that future applicants know that typos in the “tech box” on their applications will indeed be fatal.)
Under other circumstances, the whole thing could indeed be fatal to Light of Life’s WWRN, which loses on points to the UMB application. But Light of Life thinks it has a way out: it’s applying to the FCC to move WWRN down the dial to 88.5, where it can increase power from its present 530 watts to 750 watts. Will the FCC approve both applications and let everyone survive?
*There are Radio People on the Move in several corners of eastern Massachusetts, none more so than at CBS Radio’s Boston cluster, where several sources report that Andy Gresh is on his way out at the Sports Hub (WBZ-FM 98.5) after the football season ends.
Gresh and longtime on-air partner Scott Zolak have been the midday team on 98.5 for almost five years, and Gresh also hosts pre- and post-game Patriots coverage for the station. The Globe reported late last week that Gresh’s contract isn’t being renewed, though, which means a talent shuffle on the way: Marc Bertrand will move from the third chair on the “Felger and Mazz” show in the afternoon to become Zolak’s midday co-host, Rich Keefe may move from evenings to work with Felger and Massarotti in afternoons, and new hosts will be brought in to replace Gresh and Gary Tanguay for Pats pre- and post-game coverage next season.
Upstairs, “Slater” is leaving nights at CBS Radio’s AMP (WODS 103.3) in Boston, and the top-40 station is seeking a replacement; Slater will stay on board until his successor is in place.
*Out on Cape Cod, veteran Boston talents Karen Blake and Ralphie Marino are teaming up once again starting today for a new “Karen and Ralphie Morning Show” on WQRC (99.9 Barnstable), where Blake had been hosting solo. Marino moves down the dial from Cape Cod Broadcasting sister station WKPE (103.9 South Yarmouth), where “That Girl” Wilson moves from afternoons to mornings.
Over at the Codcomm group, Stephanie Viva’s joining the team at WFRQ (93.5 Harwich Port), moving over from iHeart’s WCOD (106.1 Hyannis) to become morning co-host on “Frank” alongside Steve McVie. McVie, in turn, moves his airshift to Frank from afternoons on sister “Y101” WHYA. (And you really ought to read Viva’s explanation of why she wanted to work for the local gang at Codcomm instead of for iHeart after it bought out the former Qantum ownership at WCOD!)
*In RHODE ISLAND, Marconi Broadcast Foundation has picked WWRI-LP as the calls for its new 95.1 LPFM in Coventry. Over in CONNECTICUT, the Simsbury Fire District picks WSIM-LP for its new 103.5 LPFM.
*Radio People on the Move in PENNSYLVANIA: Casey Reed returns to Philadelphia a little more than a year after leaving WRDW-FM (Wired 96.5). After spending some time doing weekends in New York at WPLJ, she’s taking over as music director and 4-8 PM jock at iHeart competitor WIOQ (102.1), where she fills the slot last occupied by “Rat and Puff.”
At iHeart’s WRFF (Radio 104.5), Jessie moves from weekends to nights, shortening the rest of the staff’s weekday airshifts: “Johnny” will now end his morning show at 10 instead of noon, Wendy Rollins moves from noon-6 to 10-3, and Mike Jones shifts from nights to the 3-7 PM shift.
Four LPFM applicants have been granted CPs for their share-time operation in Philadelphia, though three of the applicants appear to be closely enough related to make this one really a two-party share. The four applicants for 92.9 were “G-Town Radio,” Germantown United Development Corp., Germantown Life Enrichment Center and the South Philadelphia Rainbow Committee Community Center – but the three Germantown applicants will share a common studio and transmitter site controlled by the G-Town Radio group. The share-time plan calls for South Philadelphia to have the channel from 12:01 Monday morning until noon on Wednesday; the rest of the week will be mostly G-Town, with the other two Germantown groups occupying 10 hours each, mainly in midday/afternoon slots. The three “G” groups will transmit from the Germantown Life Enrichment Center at 5722 Greene Street, while the South Philly group will use a site atop the Methodist Hospital on South Broad Street.
The LPFM window also yielded a CP last week for the Philadelphia Public Access Corp., which will operate on 106.5 from a site just north of Center City.
Outside Philadelphia, La Casa Dominicana picked calls WCDH-LP for its new 99.3 in Hazleton, and the city of York briefly registered WJSI-LP for its 95.7, but then withdrew the calls so they could go to an applicant down south instead.
*In Erie, public broadcaster WQLN has had a run of really bad luck with transmission lines and antennas over the years. This time, it’s the FM side of WQLN that’s having a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad week: the signal on 91.3 has been off the air since Thursday, and tower crews have been called in to try to figure out what’s wrong with its transmission system. WQLN’s far-flung network of translators are all fed over the air, so they’re silent as well until the main 91.3 signal is repaired. In the meantime, WQLN is pointing listeners to its streaming audio to get their NPR fix.
*In NEW JERSEY, Atlantic Cape Community College was granted a CP for an LPFM on 107.9 in Mays Landing.
*And our big piece of news from CANADA begins with an answer, at least, to a question we’ve been pondering ever since Evanov submitted an unusual application to modify its flagship AM station in the Toronto market. Last April, the CRTC approved Evanov’s proposal to take down the last of the old CKMW (790) array in Brampton, northwest of Toronto, allowing CKMW’s successor CIAO (530) to replace the two shorter towers it was using (out of the ten CKMW once boasted!) with one new tower for non-directional operation.
So far, so normal…until we looked more closely at just what CIAO was proposing. Even for a station way down the dial at 530, with a correspondingly long wavelength, a 226-meter (741-foot) tower seemed like an absurdly tall thing to build for just 1000 watts on the AM dial by day, and 250 at night, especially since CIAO’s very clear channel meant its ethnic programming got out there just fine from its existing shorter sticks.
Now we know what Evanov was really up to: that big tower (as yet unbuilt, so far as we can tell) is intended to do more than just transmit CIAO’s AM signal. Last week, Evanov asked the CRTC for permission to move its CIDC (103.5 Orangeville) from its present site near Orangeville, way north of Toronto, to a new home on the new CIAO tower. The move would come with a big signal increase – from 30.7 kW/150m now to 51 kW average/100 kW max DA/221m from the new tower, enough to put most of Toronto inside the 70 dBu contour of the signal for the first time in CIDC’s long history of attempting to rimshot the nation’s biggest market.
And there’s more! Evanov is also asking the CRTC to approve experimental HD Radio authorization that would allow CIDC to rebroadcast CIAO’s programming on 103.5-HD2 and, on HD3, the programming of Evanov’s weak-signalled Toronto station CIRR (103.9).
Evanov says with its current rimshot signal into Toronto, CIDC is losing money at an accelerating pace, and it claims that only by getting a stronger signal into the big city can it make “Hot 103.5” profitable again. It’s to Evanov’s advantage that Orangeville now has a second, more local station – and indeed, My Broadcasting’s big case to get its new CKMO (101.5 Orangeville) approved was that CIDC had become a de facto Toronto station with little or no interest in Orangeville.
Will the CRTC sign off on the HD multicasting proposal? It’s expressed interest in experimenting with HD Radio technology, including approval of a test that’s been running with four ethnic programming streams on Toronto’s CJSA (101.3, “Canadian Multicultural Radio”). Given that both CIAO and “Proud FM” CIRR are meant to serve niche audiences, it’s hard to imagine the CRTC finding fault with a plan that promises to give both signals greater reach, at least to whatever extent receivers are out there to pick them up.
*Is there room for a new commercial station in the Hamilton-Burlington area? The CRTC is taking comments about whether it should issue a call for applicants for a new FM signal in Burlington, triggered by an application from Byrnes Communications for a new signal on 88.5, where it hopes to squeeze in 80 watts average DA/350 watts max for a “commercial mainstream music station.” The deadline for comments on the proposal is February 17.
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